The basic world of Virtual Traffic Lights operates like this: as you approach an intersection, your car transmits data, such as location and speed, to other nearby cars. The virtual system processes this information for all the cars in the area, with the help of a lead car that changes every cycle, and determines your individual traffic signal. Instead of seeing a red or green light hanging in the intersection, you see it on your windshield and stop or go accordingly.
The basic technology for Virtual Traffic Lights is already here. Car-to-car conversations can operate over Dedicated Short Range Communication at 5.9 Gigahertz — a radio system being tested and refined by the federal government. Tonguz expects D.S.R.C. to become mandatory for new cars soon, and he’s working on a prototype to retrofit older models. (His work is being sponsored by the Department of Transportation, and Tonguz says he’s also received funding from General Motors throughout his career.)
The biggest obstacle, says Tonguz, is getting the government to test the system in a real-world setting.
Ozan Tonguz (CMU ECE) – Virtual Traffic Lights, LLC