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Smart Streets For Smart Cars

Submitted on August 22, 2012

The problem

We have invested millions into making the vehicles we drive smarter but have we missed an equally important improvement when it comes to our roads, street lights, and stop lights?

The solution

Today, cars can make calls, stream music, talk to satellites and access the internet. Our cars can literally communicate with the world around us but what about communications between our cars and the roads we drive on? We have energy efficient cars but do we have energy efficient roads? Arguably, roads waste more energy than cars do by leaving street lights on when no cars are around and changing lights when the flow of traffic is only in one direction. If the roads could sense the cars around it and vise versa, we could customize the experience for every driver. We could allow roads to save energy and in turn improve traffic so that cars are running as efficiently as possible. Think of all the gas or battery power you could save in your car if you were only stopped on the road for a fraction of the time. Smart roads are the future. Adding sensors to street lights to monitor cars in the roads would allow for lights to dim or even turn off until they were needed saving hundreds in electricity needs for cities. Stop lights could also communicate between the street lights and other stoplights to systematically adjusts their changing times due to increased traffic during peak travelling times. Lights could learn to anticipate traffic and adjust automatically. If there was less traffic, cars would be functioning more efficiently, using less gas and energy during a trip. This not only improves the driver's experience, it also decreases the environmental footprint being left by each car on the road. Making the roads smarter would exponentially improve the carbon footprint left by each vehicle. If we could outfit the vehicles with radio frequency receivers, roads would also be able to communicate with the vehicles driving over them. This would allow for traffic updates, emergency broadcasts, and informational communications between the roads and surrounding areas and the vehicles passing through. Rather than relying on the driver to communicate with the world around them, we can allow the world to communicate with the driver. This would also improve safety for drivers.

How will your idea make people's live's better?

Larger cities could outfit their roads in sections to slowly overhaul existing equipment allowing tourists, commuters, and residents to benefit on a significantly large scale, depending on the number of roads outfitted with improvements.

How does your idea take advantage of next-generation networks?

Some stop lights are outfitted with sensors already to sense traffic but they are not communicating with the lights that are further down the road. They could be accessing information on the number of cars that are about to arrive at the light and could potentially pre calculate how to change the traffic lights before the cars even arrive. Many traffic lights, street lights, and signs already utilize solar power and these devices could also be implemented to power sensors that communicate between vehicles and roads. Network speed is currently a limitation. With so many roads, stop lights, and streetlights just in a single city, the communications required would need to be as real time as possible. These calculations would also require a central terminal server which would process the calculations and transmit the results back to the road, stop light or street light. Security would be a major limitation and would need to be setup so that the system would not be tampered with. Other limitations would involve integrations into existing traffic controls as well as having to install the hardware onto existing street lights and stop signs. Standardization of hardware and software would be required to allow the sensors installed on the roads to communicate with systems in a central location. Transportation departments would need to collaborate to insure that systems would be integrated correctly and working as efficiently as possible.


and team members

Eric Endlich ( Julian Valencia (

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