How this ingenious idea from Google helped reduce pollution and traffic jams in these big cities

Google is working on a vast program aimed at reducing pollution from thermal cars in the city. Called Green Light, this project uses artificial intelligence to optimize the cycle of traffic lights in urban areas. Enough to save time, while polluting less.

If thermal cars will all be banned for sale in Europe from 2035, we are still far from seeing the streets of cities populated solely by electric models. Especially since synthetic fuel should still be allowed, despite the fact that it is far from being as clean as people say.

AI for the environment

Today, many technologies are developed to make combustion cars less polluting during their design. But how can we limit the damage once they are on the road? Well there are several solutions. For example, include more autonomous models to reduce traffic jams, especially phantom traffic jams. But not only.

Indeed, Google is working on a system which should also help reduce congestion in cities, as well as pollution. It’s about Green Light project, which was announced for the very first time in 2021 and which is making headlines again today. The company has just communicated the results of this large-scale experiment on his website.

And these are rather stunning! This technology, which uses artificial intelligence, has already reduced red light stops by 30% and exhaust emissions by 10%. Currently, 12 cities around the world are part of this pilot program, including Hamburg, Manchester, Rio de Janeiro, Seattle and Jakarta. But then, how does this very promising technology work?

Well the latter actually consists of optimize the traffic light cycle in order to reduce the number of stops as well as their duration. And for good reason, according to a 2016 study, pollution is 29 times higher in cities than on open roads, while 50% of emissions are due to stops and starts cars.

Simple operation

To function as optimally as possible, the system developed by the Silicon Valley company also uses Google Maps. Traffic data specific to each city where the technology is tested is then analyzed and the system makes appropriate recommendations, in order to modulate the duration and cycle of traffic lights. This device makes it possible, for example, to turn them all green in succession if necessary.

Of course, the pace is adapted to the traffic conditions and times of day, so that motorists are always safe. The American site Wired also emphasizes that the latter are very satisfied with this experiment, which also allows them to save time during their daily journeys. Currently, 70 intersections are equipped with this system around the world.

Traffic lights

However, everything is not yet perfect. Indeed, in Manchester, the system would not take into account priority for buses and for pedestrians in its recommendations. Thus, this technology would not really be relevant in this case, but it cannot be ruled out that Google will still make modifications to its device to adapt to certain specificities.

This technology also appears to improve security, as Google engineers have noticed that the number of motorists who run red lights is decreasing. The reason is reduced waiting at intersections thanks to optimized cycles. A solution which, combined with the function allowing you to choose the least polluting route on Maps, should greatly help reduce emissions caused by thermal cars.

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