Cities around the world have taken different approaches to dealing with traffic. As a New York Time article a few weeks ago pointed out, European cities seem intent on driving traffic out of city centers, whereas US cities tend to try to figure out ways to accommodate it. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, announced this week that the city has for the past year been installing sensors around 110 city blocks in Manhattan under a program called "Midtown in Motion" to try to significantly reduce the traffic gridlock that often occurs.
A Wall Street Journal article yesterday reports that 100 microwave sensors have been installed along 23 crucial intersections that can detect whether there is a line of cars waiting at a traffic light, and EZPass readers at intersections are used to determine how long it takes a vehicle to move from one stop light to another. All that information is then sent to a traffic center in Queens where it is automatically analyzed in real-time. Recommendations are presented to traffic engineers, who in conjunction with the traffic situation they are seeing from 32 traffic cameras, can decide whether it is necessary to remotely adjust traffic light patterns.
The Midtown in Motion system is being tested for six months, and if successful, will be expanded to cover other areas of the city. The hope is that the information generated can also be used to route emergency vehicles along less congested streets.
Maybe IEEE Spectrum's staff (or Risk Factor blog readers) who live or work in the city will let us know whether they notice a difference?
In other smart transportation news, Volvo's automatic braking system got a big boost from the Highway Loss Data Institute. According to a story in the LA Times, the Institute found "... 27% fewer 'at-fault' insurance claims for XC60 drivers compared with operators of other midsize luxury SUVs."
The Volvo XC60 is equipped with Volvo's City Safety system, which states the LA Times,
"... works at speeds of about 2 to 19 miles per hour by sensing vehicles within 18 feet of the front end of the SUV. If the speed difference between vehicles is less than 9 mph, it can prevent a crash. If the speed difference is greater, it can reduce the impact and the damage inflicted. It is not designed to work at speeds faster than 19 mph."
The Volvo City Safety system comes standard on the 2011 Volvo S60 sedans and 2012-model S80 sedans and XC70 wagons, and has been standard on the XC60 since the 2010 model year, the Times says.
A related story at USAToday says that only about 40% of people brake in crashes. The story goes to state that:
"IIHS [Insurance Institute for Highway Safety] estimated last year that these crash-avoidance features have the potential to prevent or at least lessen the impact in 1.9 million crashes a year and help prevent one out of three fatal crashes. Systems that warn then help prevent frontal crashes by braking automatically could be the solution for most of those - 1.2 million crashes. That represents 20% of the 5.8 million police-reported crashes each year and as many as 66,000 non-fatal injury crashes and 879 fatalities a year, IIHS says."
You can watch different automotive manufacturer's ideas concerning automatic braking systems in this video at the USAToday web site or a video on the Volvo City Safety system on YouTube here.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.