Surtrac allows traffic to move at the speed of technology

Artificial intelligence is giving more Pittsburgh drivers the green light.

Developing and deploying the technology to keep the traffic flowing took a team of researchers and roboticists from Carnegie Mellon University together with the help of city engineers and funding from foundations.

It all started because Henry Hillman, the late Pittsburgh business leader and philanthropist, was frustrated with traffic signals that wouldn’t turn despite a lack of traffic. In 2009, he reached out to then-CMU president Jerry L. Cohon, to promote the idea that Pittsburgh could be used as a test bed for transportation systems. Not only could it help make traffic move more smoothly, but technology could be developed and spun off, thereby creating more jobs in Pittsburgh.

Their conversation became the impetus for CMU’s Traffic21 Institute, a multidisciplinary research institute with the goal to design, test, deploy and evaluate information and communications-technology-based solutions to address transportation problems. The center is directed from CMU’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.