RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Traffic lights — red, yellow, green… and white?
Researchers at North Carolina State University say it’s a possibility as they look into the future of driving and how it’ll impact traffic patterns.
They said autonomous vehicles – or completely driverless cars – could be a reality over the next few decades.
When that happens, their ‘White Light’ study could help traffic flow.
“We want to make the traffic going through the intersection more efficient, at the same time safer and we want to save on fuel cost options,” said Dr. Ali Hajbabaie, an Associate Professor at NC State who oversees the research.
Here’s how it works – at an intersection, there would be another light of any color telling drivers to follow autonomous vehicles, which would act as a guide, taking them through safely.
“In that condition, if the car in front of us stops, we stop. If it goes, we go,” Dr. Hajbabaie explained.
The light would also communicate with the autonomous vehicles, and vice versa.
Researchers are using demo cars to simulate how it could work.
They say safety is the biggest priority, and by the time driverless cars are a reality, drivers could trust them.
“We need to trust the technology as we always have,” said Ramin Niroumand, Ph.D. candidate at NC State and lead researcher for the study. “To come to normal cars, we had to get rid of horses, and the internet came and people are starting to trust new technologies.”
It’s part of a bigger idea.
“There is a lot of research going into this technology,” said Dr. Hajbabaie. “It’s not only us and universities that are researching it, it’s national labs, it’s car manufacturing companies.”
Niroumand said it’s also something he wants to be part of in the future.
“My plan is to find a research-based job in some of these high-tech companies like Avaamo, or I see that UPS is working on some of this stuff, Amazon is having some research in that area,” he said.
In the next phase of the study, the group of researchers are looking into how intersections’ pedestrians factor into the equation.
They’re researching how the process can run smoothly while also keeping pedestrians safe and allowing them time to cross.