Traffic congestion and its consequences

Due to an increased demand for mobility, our urban road network has become increasingly oversaturated. As a result, the time we waste in congested traffic is growing at an exponential rate. This has huge consequences for our economy, our environment, our health and our quality of life:

Economy: The economic cost of traffic jams is ~900 euro per capita per year, which is expected to increase by 46% by 2030! These costs include direct costs (e.g., additional fuel needed) and indirect costs (e.g., increased cost of doing business due to loss in efficiency). The effects on health and environment are not included in these costs. 1
Environment: In the EU-27, road transportation causes 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Road transportation is a major contributor to acid rain and smog, having a negative effect on aquatic life, animals, soil, trees, and crops and plants. Moreover, it negatively affects air quality and water quality, and results in land and noise pollution. 2,3,4,5,6
Health: Pollution that gathers inside cars in traffic jams and at red traffic lights is far higher than that found in cars that are moving. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes outdoor air pollution as a "major environmental risk to health", linking it to +/-4 million premature deaths yearly. 7
Quality of life: Currently, each commuter wastes an average of 10 minutes per working day in traffic jams. When also including additional planning time, which is needed to account for increased uncertainty in travel times, this amounts to 30 wasted minutes per working day! This is expected to grow to 60 wasted minutes daily by 2030 having a huge impact on our quality of life! 1

Our Mission

Our mission is to substantially reduce the amount of time that we spend in urban traffic and, as a consequence, have a significant impact on our economy, our environment, our human health, and our quality of life. We want to achieve this by drastically improving traffic flow near signalized intersections (the natural bottlenecks of urban road networks), especially in high-traffic situations.

Our Vision

In high-traffic situations, traffic light controllers can no longer react to individual arrivals of vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists. Instead, to benefit the greater-good, long-term effects of control decisions on all queue lengths and waiting times must be carefully taken into account. To appropriately evaluate these long-term effects, one would not only need to know the current or next control decision, but also all control decisions that follow. The reason for this, is that the order in which these traffic lights are served (and which traffic lights are served simultaneously) becomes of crucial importance in high-traffic situations (clearance times play a very important role here). Therefore, for high-traffic situations, we strongly believe that the only efficient and tractable approach is to use an optimized periodic schedule or a vehicle-actuated controller based on such a periodic schedule.

We have put tremendous effort in developing state-of-the-art methods for the optimization of such periodic schedules, called fixed-time schedules; these novel methods are extremely fast. They can compute the optimal fixed-time schedule (and the associated phase diagrams) in real-time; something deemed impossible until now! This allows for truly smart and adaptive traffic light control that continuously adopts the phase sequence that best matches the current traffic situation while taking into account long-term effects on traffic queues. We bring our advanced optimization methods to practice in the form of desktop software and cloud APIs.

3. Colvile, R. N., Hutchinson, E. J., Mindell, J. S., and Warren, R. F. (2001). The transport sector as a source of air pollution. Atmospheric Environment, 35(9):1537-1565.
4. Singh, A., Agrawal, M., et al. (2007). Acid rain and its ecological consequences. Journal of Environmental Biology, 29(1):15.
5. National Research Council (U.S.) (2009). Urban stormwater management in the United States. The National Academies Press, Washington D.C.
6. Radle, A. L. (2007). The effect of noise on wildlife: A literature review. In World Forum for Acoustic Ecology Online Reader.