London, February 13 : "Smart" traffic lights that wirelessly keep track of vehicles may help reduce the time that drivers normally spend waiting at intersections during rush hours by over 28 per cent, say researchers.
A research team recorded peak traffic flow at a major junction in Bucharest, Romania. Based on the data thus gathered, a working model of traffic flow was created at Rutgers University in New Jersey, US.
The traffic lights in the model were fed the position and speed of all vehicles on nearby roads. They were also programmed to calculate how to phase colour changes in order to optimise traffic flow.
The model showed that in addition to reducing intersection waiting times, such traffic lights could also help reduce CO2 emissions by 6.5 per cent.
Liviu Iftode from Rutgers University believes that journey times, fuel consumption and emissions might improve further if traffic lights were enabled to transmit information back to vehicles.
If a set of lights told drivers when they were about to change, "drivers (could) adapt their speed accordingly to avoid useless accelerations or react faster on green," New Scientist magazine quoted the research team as writing in their report.
"Moreover, in-vehicle software could recommend appropriate speeds based on when the current phase will end, and how many cars are already queued," the researchers wrote.
The magazine report says that many companies and research groups worldwide are working on vehicle communications systems that may be adapted for this purpose.