PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Dr. Stephen Smith and his team at CMU’s Robotics Institute have developed a smart traffic signal pilot system at the busy Penn Avenue intersection in East Liberty.

“Traffic signals that can sense a traffic situation and adapt to that traffic situation in real time,” CMU President Jared Cohon said.

Video cameras read the traffic stream at a given intersection. That information is relayed to a computer nearby and then the information is communicated on to the next intersections to optimize traffic flow.

Nine intersections are linked so far.

“Overall reduction in emissions – 20 – a little over 20 percent, improved travel time through the corridor by 26 percent and finally the amount of time people wait at intersections was reduced by 40 percent,” CMU’s Allen Biehler said.

Consequently, allowing traffic to flow more efficiently reduces driver stress and more.

“You could improve the productivity of the region by as much as 30 percent – add that in to all of the other things that make this an attractive place to live,” James Rohr, chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Group, said.

The adaptive traffic signal control technology is the brainchild of a public-private partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, local foundations and grant money.

Philanthropist Henry Hillman, who first pitched the idea, asks for patience.

“They’re not going to be overnight miracles,” he said.

But the payoff could be huge. The hope is to expand the pilot to an added nine intersections within the year. A city-wide system can be expanded as money becomes available.

“Nothing will excite me more than to expand from this intersection to hopefully all the 600 traffic lights and signals throughout the city of Pittsburgh,” Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said.

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