Every year, the average American commuter spends a total of about one week of their life in traffic.

Traffic congestion and the resulting delays costs major U.S. cities $121 billion in fuel costs and productivity loss annually, the equivalent of about $800 per commuter. Now, computer scientists in Pennsylvania have a new smart traffic signal system that could help reduce traffic congestion, curb pollution and cut commuter time.

The system – called  Smart Urban Traffic Control, or SURTRAC – gives lights at intersections the ability to adjust to changing traffic conditions in real time.

Video cameras at intersections communicate traffic flow information between intersections. The technology then adjusts the timing of the lights based on the information it receives from other stoplights to better move traffic through the intersections and minimize delays due to congestion.

A study of the new system in action within nine Pittsburgh intersections showed a 40 percent reduction in vehicle wait time, a 26 percent reduction in travel time, and a 21 percent cut in emissions. City traffic managers are planning to expand the technology to include 45 intersections in Pittsburgh by the end of 2014.



Inside Science TV: Smarter Traffic Signals Can Save Time And Money