Smartphone app could help you beat red lights

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created e-mail, helped spur development of the Kindle and a variety of other things.

Now, MIT grads are hoping to tackle stop-and-go traffic, according to Reuters.

Using a smartphone app, MIT researchers are hoping to help drivers miss red lights and improve fuel economy in the process.

“The stop-and-go pattern that traffic signals creates increases fuel consumption significantly,” Emmanouil Koukoumidis, the scientist behind the app, told Reuters. “We wondered how we could help drivers cruise through signal light intersections without stopping, and how much we could save on gas and improve the flow of vehicles.”

The app, dubbed SignalGuru, uses the smartphone’s camera to detect when a signal may switch from red to green. The app then tells the driver what speed to drive to cruise through the intersection without stopping.

The speed recommendations are always below the legal speed limit.

The app, which isn’t commercially available, did show some promise, researchers told Reuters. The researchers found a 20 percent drop in fuel consumption when using the application in a city with a pre-timed system.

It was less accurate on a system based on traffic volume, Reuters reported.

“The good news for the U.S. is that most signals in the U.S. are dummy signals, (or based on a pre-timed schedule),” Koukoumidis told MIT.

And by using a large group of users, the system can quickly learn the habits of traffic signals in a growing area by crowd sourcing the habits, Koukoumidis told MIT.

Koukoumidis said he envisions the technology to be some day incorporated into existing routing systems and could use verbal cues rather than visual cues about speed.

To read more about the app, you can read the Koukoumidis’ report on the SignalGuru’s performance on the road.