What is it : According to patent IBM wants to develop a traffic light control system that relies on cameras. A computer visualizes real-time images of traffic in each direction and then calculates the optimal traffic pattern.
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Why is it important? Have you ever been sitting at four intersections for three minutes to watch a red light with a mixture of confusion and anger because there is no other vehicle seen? Yes this.
We asked Steve Hobson, IBM's lead inventor, why we could not write better non-intelligent regular programs to repair the traffic light system, he says:
I would say that most people who "use" road junctions controlled by signals – whether they are motorists, pedestrians, cyclists or others – would agree that a human observing a junction could help the thing to work better.
A human can absorb masses of information that would suggest adjustments to the signal sequence and / or timing. Consider a few:
There is a group of children standing in the pouring rain waiting to cross the road
There is a big queue of traffic on one of the approaches but not on others
There is a very slow (maybe old) pedestrian crossing halfway across the road
Someone has fallen across the road
A backlog of vehicles accumulates because they can not cross the path of oncoming vehicles
There is a red light that stops a vehicle even though the streets are deserted
Developing protocols for such a complex environment is difficult to say and impractical if each junction is to be managed taking into account its unique characteristics. But the fact that this type of information is "easy" to assimilate and use for a human suggests that AI has the potential to help.
The Bottom Line: IBM should accelerate this patent plan. Because the traffic is zero and we hate it. Remember, no matter how fluid we move, a computer can not do that:
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