ATLANTA – Some metro drivers see traffic lights as their biggest enemy, but an $18-million state effort could turn thousands of traffic signals into a commuter’s best friend.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is in the process of installing 9,500 "smart" traffic lights statewide.
The new light at busy Piedmont Avenue and Peachtree Road in Buckhead is one example of a light that recognizes when employees at different office buildings are ending their day’s work.
“If an office building to the south is letting out heading north, we'll adjust the timing to improve the flow for that northbound traffic,” says GDOT’s Allen Davis.
There are 200 “smart” lights already operating in metro Atlanta. Eventually, they’ll replace every signal in several metro counties, including Gwinnett, Cobb, and Cherokee.
Road sensors send a signal to what amounts to a computer inside the “smart” signal. Every 10th of a second, the signal’s computer sends data to GDOT traffic engineers, who adjust the light to relieve the heaviest traffic.
“This is way more information than we've ever had before,” says Davis.
Engineers at GDOT's Traffic Management Center are constantly analyzing the data.
“We look at charts and graphs to tell what's performing well,” says Davis.
They can make it so the light adjusts on its own to changing traffic patterns.
So far, reviews from the engineers are encouraging. Traffic flow at one intersection outside of metro Atlanta improved 15% with a smart light.
“It helped us say, there's value here,” says Davis. “It's making a difference.”
Commuters are eager to see how much of a difference it makes in places like busy Buckhead.
(© 2016 WXIA)