"Traffic intersections are particularly complex spaces, because you have two flows of traffic competing for the same piece of real estate," says Professor Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, in press materials.
"But a slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic flow level to the vehicle level. Ultimately, it's a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them."
Studies suggest that real-time slot allocation would at least double the number of vehicles able to pass through an intersection in a given amount of time. That would reduce travel times generally, and also cut down on emissions from idling vehicles.
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The full report, titled "Revisiting Street Intersections Using Slot-Based Systems." was published this week in the online journal PloS ONE. In addition to the Light Traffic concept video above, you can check out the longer version from MIT's DriveWAVE project.
One final note: Researchers say that the Light Traffic process is also capable of accommodating bicycles and pedestrians in a particular intersection. While I have tremendous faith in technology, I suspect my brain stem will balk at crossing an intersection where self-driving cars are continually whizzing past from four directions. Maybe I'll get over it.