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There’s an app for beating red lights

Do you ever get frustrated when you get stopped by a string of red lights while driving? If you’re like me, you sure do. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how (legally) fast you should be going to maximize the number of green lights you hit and minimize the reds? Well, there’s an app for that.

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 didn’t work as well on systems that were based on traffic volume, but most of them are just plain timed systems, so it’s not a big deal. The developers are thinking about integrating the app into existing routing systems, and having it give verbal instructions, since one presumes it’s not such a hot idea to be staring at your phone while approaching a traffic light. But if this ever becomes commercially available, I know I’ll download a copy.

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