MIT Prof Writes Algorithm to Solve Traffic Headaches

Berthold Horn, a professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, proposed a variation on adaptive cruise control technology.

An MIT professor has proposed a new method for using adaptive cruise control systems in motor vehicles to prevent highway traffic jams. Larry Hardesty of the MIT News Office reported that Berthold Horn, a professor in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, presented an algorithm at an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. conference that can be used to prevent the type of backup "which you think must be caused by an accident or construction, but which at some point thins out for no apparent reason." These have been studied for decades, Hardesty reported.

Adaptive cruise control (ACC) technology uses sensors to monitor the speed and distance of the vehicle in front of it, automatically slowing the ACC-equipped vehicle when traffic backs up ahead of it.

"Counterintuitively, a car equipped with Horn's system would also use sensor information about the distance and velocity of the car behind it. A car that stays roughly halfway between those in front of it and behind it won’t have to slow down as precipitously if the car in front of it brakes; but it will also be less likely to pass on any unavoidable disruptions to the car behind it. Since the system looks in both directions at once, Horn describes it as 'bilateral control,'" Hardesty wrote.

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