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Could Sensor Technology End Traffic Jams?

Listen Now:
Monday, November 25, 2013

Nobody likes them — those rush hour traffic jams on city streets and highways. In some places like Los Angeles, an 8-mile stretch on the 405 can take over 50 minutes.

But if a new sensor makes it off the drawing board and into cars, traffic jams that are not caused by car accidents could become a thing of the past.

MIT computer scientist Berthold Horn has come up with a system to keep traffic moving, and speaks with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti.

Horn’s sensor uses a camera and a computer to assess the relative velocity and distance between a car, the vehicle in front of it and behind it. It would adjust the car’s speed accordingly.

Horn says the technology can be effective only “if a large fraction of the cars use that system.”

While that might be a daunting sell, Horn says it is more convenient and safer for drivers.

“In stop and go traffic, I would rather press a button and have the car take over,” Horn said. “Because it’s stressful and it requires constant attention … and that I’d rather delegate to some automation.”


  • Berthold Horn, professor of computer science and engineering at MIT.
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