Is motoring without traffic lights possible? MIT visionaries certainly think so

No more beating the red light
by Gerard Jude Castillo | Mar 31, 2016

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Imagine a city with no traffic lights and no gridlock. Where cars move freely without congestion and are spared from accidents. Imagine a world where we all get to our destination without unnecessary delays. Obviously, this scenario isn’t Metro Manila. In fact, you’d actually wonder if it even exists anywhere in the world.

Well, it does--at least in the minds of the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The learning institution has come up with the Senseable City Lab. The urban utopia is a vision of what they hope the metropolis of the future will be like: a place where people live in harmony and go about their business in an orderly fashion.

One of the interesting facets of this city is the traffic light-free system. Developed together with the Swiss Institute of Technology and the Italian National Research Council, the idea is to do away with the practice of installing traffic lights. In case you didn’t know, traffic lights were devised some 150 years ago to aid in establishing smooth and orderly right of way for the horse and the buggy. As cars came about and became more numerous, the system naturally evolved into what it is today. Unfortunately, while it has helped lessen accidents, it has also caused chaos in many congested urban environments.

And this is what the urban planners and engineers at MIT hope to address. The goal is to rid road networks of the gridlocks that these lights tend to cause. As for the question of inevitable mishaps at intersections, many carmakers are already working on the connected automobile. We’re referring to cars that communicate with each other.

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Intersections will also be divided into slots where vehicles can safely wait to avoid any fender-benders. Picture that favorite slot car set you had as a kid, and you’ll get a better understanding of what the visionaries hope to achieve. Plus, the system can incorporate a lane or two for bikes, pedestrians and maybe even buses. Of course, the last one needs a whole lot of political will and discipline to enforce.

And maybe that’s the whole point here. If we had just an ounce of discipline while driving, then maybe we wouldn’t need to dream up such utopias. So, are you ready for a traffic light-free drive?

 

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