The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge is a world-renowned institution of research and higher education. MIT personnel focus on complex topics like NAD+-dependent deacetylase, stimulated emission depletion imaging, and photonic metamaterial resonances. But they also study subject matter that affects all Americans – such as how to avoid traffic accidents. And it is in this area where researchers at MIT have made a significant breakthrough: they have created the ability to actually predict when a vehicle is going to run a red light.
How did they accomplish this? By coming up with an algorithm which can accurately forecast when a car or truck is most likely to blow through a red light. The algorithm takes several factors into account, including distance from the intersection and auto deceleration, to determine when a red light-running episode will occur. Using this algorithm, researchers were able to correctly predict red-light violators 85% of the time. Furthermore, they claim that they have identified what they call a “sweet spot” in the data, or a point in time where the algorithm’s accuracy is even higher and there is enough time for other motorists to take evasive action. This sweet spot is about 1 to 2 seconds before a collision takes place.
So how can this groundbreaking research help reduce traffic accidents?
The folks at MIT envision their algorithm being adapted into devices that could be installed in all cars and trucks. This so-called vehicle-to-vehicle (or V2V, for short) communication could allow vehicles to “talk” with each other. The idea would be for your car to be able to identify when another vehicle was running a red light — and then sound or flash a warning to you in time for you to stop or swerve and avoid a collision. (This MIT video shows robotic “cars” demonstrating how V2V might work.)
Such technology would probably have some interesting effects on drivers and their actions. For one thing, auto insurance companies would likely give discounts for car policyholders whose vehicles are equipped with V2V capability. But any sharp reduction in accidents might take time to be realized, as new cars with the V2V technology slowly replace older vehicles which do not have it. And then there’s the possibility of V2V technology giving drivers a false sense of security. For instance, a driver might reason that because others will be warned of red light runners, he or she will not have to worry about a collision – and will therefore be more likely to run a red light.
In any case, V2V technology in consumer vehicles is still quite a few years away. But this concept may have never been created had it not been for some of the great minds at MIT. These individuals are not just geniuses, nerds, or geeks — they’re modern-day superheroes who improve the quality of our lives.