Argo AI’s Pittsburgh pilot shows promise for traffic infrastructure

The company has installed its technology in roughly 50 intersections in Pittsburgh, and has equipped intersections in Quincy, Mass., Atlanta and the metro Toronto and Philadelphia regions.

There’s a two-pronged approach to Rapid Flow Technologies’ attempts to thwart traffic congestion. One is its base software, called Surtrac, which offers the real-time adaptive signal controls based on multimodal traffic flow. Routecast, what was tested with Argo, is a more forward-looking layer on the technology that incorporates routes from users willing to provide them. Understanding routes in advance gives the software’s predictive elements better certainty in how traffic will flow.

“It improves everybody’s experience, and that leads to a step change,” Schultz said. “It’s a new way of thinking about a connected vehicle.”

Actually, it’s perhaps an old way of thinking about connected vehicles. For more than two decades, the federal government has attempted to generate traction for the so-called V2X technology that allows vehicles to transmit safety information between vehicles and infrastructure.

Launching those vehicle-to-vehicle transmissions has been delayed by years of squabbling over which method should be used to send those communications. But with infrastructure as a focal point, information could be transmitted without new equipment in cars.

Schultz says information for Routecast could be drawn from interested fleets, navigation systems embedded in cars, transit vehicles and from any road user’s cellphone. Road users uninterested in sharing detailed route information still get some traffic-reduction benefits.

In the Argo pilot project, the information flow was one-way only. Information flowed from the vehicle to the traffic light.

In the future, the lights could provide more of a two-way exchange, in which self-driving vehicles receive information on the status of traffic lights that may be occluded or receive information on how many seconds remain until a green light, so they can adjust their speeds accordingly.

“That’s a future-tense thing, we’re not claiming that is yet there,” Rander said. “What we’re really excited about with Rapid Flow is the benefits from maintaining the traffic flow and the continuity provided with traffic management. There’s much, much promise there.”

Not only for self-driving vehicles, but for every road user who might benefit from the ripple effects of broader cooperation.

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