Oct 25, 2017

A professor with a way to reduce time spent at red lights

Attacking a commuting scourge. (Photo: Richard Drew / AP)

You know the routine — wait at one red light, only to meet another at the next intersection, and another. In cities, we are spending 40% of our time idling, according to Stephen Smith, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. The time adds up: the average American spends 42 hours a year in traffic — almost two complete days, says Inrix, an analytics firm. New Yorkers spend more than twice as long — 89 hours.

Why it matters: Smith says our traffic systems have not changed in a half-century. Down the road, we will have self-driving cars. Before then, though, we can enjoy less road anxiety.

What is happening: In Pittsburgh and Atlanta, drivers are now more systematically moving along major streets, the result of the installation of intelligent traffic systems designed by Smith. Using cameras, radar and radios, the systems figure out on the spot which lights should be red, and which green.

Cities and companies are catching on to the chance to use new technologies to get people through lights faster. There are apps that tell you when a light will turn green. But Smith notes that none of them actually changes the lights according to what is going on in real-time. His systems cost about $20,000 per four-way intersection.

In the future, Beverly Hills, CA., Portland, Maine, and Dubai plan on installing Smith's system, he says. For now, writers are citing the traffic system as part of why Pittsburgh seems so cool these days. And last month, Atlanta launched "North Avenue Smart Corridor," including the technology. The 2.3 mile corridor, which has 18 intersections, includes Georgia Tech and Coca Cola's world headquarters. Speaking of the corridor in DC on Oct. 5, Mayor Kasim Reed said, "It's going to be a living lab for the city of Atlanta."

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

There are no COVID-19 patients in hospital in New Zealand, which reported just 21 active cases. A top NZ health official said Tuesday he's "confident we have broken the chain of domestic transmission."

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.9 million tests).

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

Coronavirus antibody tests are still relatively unreliable, and it's unclear if people who get the virus are immune to getting it again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned on Tuesday.

By the numbers: More than 98,900 people have died from COVID-19 and over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Over 384,900 Americans have recovered and more than 14.9 million tests have been conducted.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,588,299 — Total deaths: 350,417 — Total recoveries — 2,286,827Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 1,680,625 — Total deaths: 98,902 — Total recoveries: 384,902 — Total tested: 14,907,041Map.
  3. Federal response: DOJ investigates meatpacking industry over soaring beef pricesMike Pence's press secretary returns to work.
  4. Congress: House Republicans to sue Nancy Pelosi in effort to block proxy voting.
  5. Business: How the new workplace could leave parents behind.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Trump's tweets about mail-in voting for first timeGoogle to open offices July 6 for 10% of workers.
  7. Public health: Coronavirus antibodies could give "short-term immunity," CDC says, but more data is neededCDC releases guidance on when you can be around others after contracting the virus.
  8. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy