We’ve all sat in long traffic queues watching someone else crawl through a green light, wondering when we can finally press on the gas and speed away. Suddenly the green light flashes, but before we know what has happened, the red light is back on and we’re stuck again. Indeed, traffic lights are everywhere and given the jams we encounter every day, we spend a major part of our lives trying to navigate busy streets. In fact, traffic congestions are estimated to cost around $300 billion by 2030 for governments worldwide. Traffic accidents and injuries are also a common occurrence and the streets have become a nightmare that we can’t live without.
But what if Augmented Reality (AR) could step in to smooth the way and make traffic hassles a thing of the past?
How it works
Perhaps, the greatest appeal of AR lies in its ability to translate information from the virtual world into the real world. For instance, it could tell you which lane is best for a route through a packed junction. Or even tell you the distance to the car ahead. Or even predict traffic jams and warn you in advance about which road to avoid. You’re probably thinking that the GPS already does that, but what if we said AR will help you navigate traffic without your ever having to glance at the screen? That ‘smart’ windshields, too, could convey information that will help you stay calm on the road and know when the guy ahead of you will make a U-turn? Or that police officers can get information about you simply by looking at your car? Yes, AR is already making waves in the area of traffic management and at the rapid pace at which technology is growing, it is likely to make roads as safe as a house.
That’s not all. AR can also display speed limits for roads, which when displayed on a windshield, allows the driver to manage speed better. AR also detects pedestrians and any other obstacle that lies ahead. These help drivers make more informed choices.
An important device is the AR Heads Up (AR-HUD) which makes driving a breeze for any driver. Take for instance, driver who wishes to change lanes in order to pass a car in front of him. This act becomes challenging if there is a truck in front of the driver which makes it difficult to see and navigate the car properly. In such a situation, the AR-HUD device enables the driver to see an accurate image of the vehicles moving ahead, either on the HUD glasses or on the screen, so that he will know when exactly to make the move. Technology in the AR-HUD device also advises the driver about whether it’s actually a good idea to change lanes, thus avoiding any chance of a possible collision.
According to a research paper presented at the NSF Engineering Research and Innovation Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, AR also helps create animations of real life road networks and simulated roving environments on car screens, that help drivers understand the streets better. “In other words, real world entities (e.g. cars, pedestrians) that are existing in a typical traffic pattern can be shown in the background of an AR animation (on the driver’s screen or an audio device), while the traffic simulation is superimposed on the foreground,” the report says. AR also helps prioritize road users into categories such as pedestrians, cyclists, emergency vehicles, etc which can streamline traffic and improve safety.
AR for traffic authorities
It’s not just the drivers who stand to benefit from AR. Police and other traffic management entities can make use of AR’s growing potential to scrutinize vehicles better. Smart glasses, for instance, can help them scan a moving vehicle’s number plate, which then transmits details about the car and the driver to a local device. The glasses can also help scan an individual’s driving license to understand his driving record.
Traffic Management Systems handle a huge amount of data. Therefore, a standardization in data representation and data correlation become difficult due to non-integration among different systems and sources. Then again, ensuring privacy of this data becomes a challenge because of its sheer volume, and since the data may contain personal information that can track people and vehicles, one key challenge is to prevent malicious attacks that can add or change messages generated by services, and produce fake warning messages.
AR in traffic management is still at an experimental stage, but the day is not far off when traffic jams will be history and vehicles will move with robotic precision and control. Get ready for the future of traffic!