Giving traffic jams the heave-ho with the help of A.I. and data

Six years ago, the city of Pittsburgh collaborated with Carnegie Mellon University to develop adaptive traffic control signals in a section of town that was plagued by terrible traffic.

“Pittsburgh doesn’t have a regular grid. Because we’re so hilly [with] rivers and hollows, there aren’t a lot of redundant streets,” says Karina Ricks, director of the Pittsburgh Department of Mobility and Infrastructure. “So when we have these corridors, particularly that go into the central business district, they are the principal corridors for all modes [including buses, bicycles, cars, and pedestrians] to travel on. So it’s it’s challenging to do regular traffic signal timing … and to progress the traffic smoothly.”

The program put artificial intelligence to work to analyze the traffic flow throughout the day—and change the signals when it makes sense instead of on a predetermined schedule.