Carnegie Mellon University

Downtown bus

MobilityLab: In Pittsburgh, machine learning improves traffic for all road users – not just cars

If there were less traffic, would more people drive? That is one of the questions being asked by Mobility Lab in a December 2018 article. This article quotes Metro21’s Executive Director, Karen Lightman, who sheds light on how technology and policy interact in smart cities to improve traffic flow while discouraging an influx of single-occupancy vehicles on the road.

Lightman discusses Surtrac, the traffic management system developed within Metro21 that optimizes traffic flow using real-time sensors and artificial intelligence. One concern with this optimization is that it would encourage more people to drive when traffic becomes less of a hassle.

To address this concern, Lightman points out that the Surtrac system can be adjusted to prioritize different types of vehicles, such as bicycles and busses, as well as pedestrians. By changing system priorities, cities and communities can promote the optimized movement of people over cars.

Because of this flexibility, Lightman emphasizes the importance of government and community involvement in the deployment of Surtrac to best capture the values of the city, especially in terms of equity and mobility.

Metro21 is focused on using smart technology to create smart policy for everyone. She says “We use the city as a test bed, and the city uses us as their R & D arm,” said Lightman.  If all works out – and that means smart policy – not just smart technology – Surtrac may be opening the door on the smart city of future in which platoons of bikes, small electric vehicles, pedestrians, buses, and trains enact a dance of perfect harmony.  It will be a city where even the humblest resident gets safely and efficiently to her destination at all hours."

Read the full article from MobilityLab