Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Traffic Tamer

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Traffic Tamer

Article excerpt

Despite a few downturns, Clark County, Nev. generally draws tens of thousands of new residents a year. A staggering number of people also come to party and attend conventions in Las Vegas, its biggest city--39 million in 2011.

That creates heavy traffic in this car-oriented place and furnishes Dr. Pushkin Kachroo, professor and transportation research scientist, and his students with plenty of data to analyze and use for potential solutions.

Kachroo, who is director of the Transportation Research Center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says good planning for roads and highways is one thing, but using ever-cheaper technology to engage drivers in "real time" is the most efficient and effective method to collect data and manage traffic while the planning lumbers along, he says.

"The revolution is already here," says Kachroo, 45, who thinks and talks a mile a minute and whom one can picture getting impatient sitting in traffic jams. "We're talking one or two years, not 10 years."

Kachroo foresees the day when a driver's smart phone transmits data to a traffic center, and that center, compiling that and other data from every other driver on the road, lets him or her know immediately about congested areas, accidents and the best route.

If the driver is weary and wants to get someplace in a hurry, he would tell the phone to forget about gas mileage and focus on sheer speed in figuring out routes.

There would be vehicle-to-vehicle communication and adaptive cruise control--already offered in some cars--that maintains a specified distance from the vehicle ahead. The phone would warn drivers when they're drifting from their lanes. Ideally, Kachroo says, control centers would "change traffic signals on the fly."

"Waiting at a red light when there's no traffic, that's not efficient," he says. "With the right technology, why would you use a fixed-time system?"

Much of Kachroo's work focuses on collecting data in more efficient and sophisticated ways. He and a student developed an iPhone 4 app that recorded video of 1-15, a bustling highway that runs through Las Vegas, from the rear of a vehicle and collected Global Positioning System location, speed and time stamps. …

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