Could self-driving vehicles bring about fourth traffic signal in US?

Self-driving cars in the US prompt discussion on new traffic protocols

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US might add fourth white traffic signal for self-driving cars. — Unsplash

The future of traffic laws could be transformed by the advent of self-driving cars, according to a recent research.

The research suggests that a possible fourth signal could be introduced to indicate when autonomous vehicles are in charge of an intersection, Fox News reported.

This would involve a white light in addition to the standard red, yellow, and green traffic signals.

Alternatively, the study suggests that flashing red and green lights could be used, eliminating the need for a white light altogether.

While such changes may not come about until around half of all vehicles on the road are self-driving, the pace of AI progress means that it could happen sooner rather than later, according to Henry Liu, a civil engineering professor at the University of Michigan.

The US Department of Transportation via the bipartisan infrastructure law has granted the university to test traffic light changes in real time using speed and location data from cars.

The university is conducting a pilot program in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of using data from connected vehicles to optimise traffic signal timings.

While fully autonomous vehicles are not yet on the market, companies like Tesla, Mercedes, GM and Ford are bridging the gap, along with Waymo, the autonomous rideshare service owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

Karp noted cars operate without a fourth light in select cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin, Texas and San Francisco.