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Traffic Control

 

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Overview
The popularity of the automobile in the United States is reflected in some incredible statistics: From 1950 to 1986, the U.S. population increased by 60%, while the number of automobiles grew by 257%. During this same time period, new highway construction declined. The result? Gridlock ! One example is the Hollywood Freeway, built to handle 120,000 cars a day by 1970; in 1965, it was handling nearly twice that amount. In Los Angeles, rush-hour traffic crawls along at 35 mph; if nothing is done to improve conditions, by 2010, traffic will be moving at 11 mph. This kind of congestion was the subject of a Federal Highway Administration study, which found that recurring congestion (e.g., daily rush hours) along urban freeways during 1987 caused 700 million vehicle hours of delay. Non-recurring congestion (e.g., accidents or road work) resulted in over 1.2 million vehicle hours of delay. The costs of national traffic congestion are estimated at $100 billion annually, including lost productivity and accidents. Traffic management can significantly reduce some of these vehicle hours of delay by detecting and responding promptly to incidents and accidents, and rerouting traffic where necessary. A section of Interstate 394 in Minneapolis is about to become the largest live traffic laboratory in the world, using 38 cameras atop poles every 1,000 feet to collect data that is fed to a monitor. This information will be monitored by a computer that can interpret traffic conditions and, ideally, implement a plan to alleviate the tie-ups. Congress has recently appropriated federal funds to, in part, promote a new family of technologies for traffic management, known as Intelligent Vehicle/Highway Systems (IVHS). Several innovative systems are being studied; some, like an automobile navigation system, are already on the market. These navigation systems use compact discs (CDs) to store maps of all U.S. interstate highways and several metropolitan areas. The rest of the system uses speed sensors, an electronic compass, and a small computer. When the driver punches in an address or destination, the computer responds by showing the map on a visual screen, and providing information about the distance in miles and the direction to be traveled.

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