RadioBDC Logo
Call It Dreaming | Iron & Wine Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

MIT predicts red light runners

Posted by Bill Griffith  December 6, 2011 05:21 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


(Christine Daniloff/MIT News)

For those of us who have no idea what an algorithm is, we’re told it’s a step-by-step procedure for calculations used in data processing and automated reasoning.

These processes run any number of the “smart” systems in today’s automotive world.

Now MIT researchers have devised one that can predict when an oncoming car is likely to run a red light. It’s an achievement with the potential to save many lives.

MIT’s report quotes National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures that show 2.3 million crashes occurred at intersections across the country in 2008, resulting in 7,000 deaths. More than 700 of those fatalities were caused by drivers running red lights. And, half of those victims weren’t the law-breaking drivers, but innocent drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

The MIT group used parameters such as the vehicle’s deceleration and distance from the intersection to determine which cars were potential violators— those likely to enter the intersection after a traffic light turned red.

They then tested the algorithm on data collected from an intersection in Virginia, determining that it identified potential violators within a couple of seconds of reaching the light—enough time for other drivers to be able to react if they were alerted. MIT researchers found their program accurate 85 percent of the time with fewer false positives than previous test systems.

Jonathan How, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, says future “smart” cars may use such algorithms to help drivers avoid potential collisions.

How says to implement such warning systems, vehicles need to be able to “talk” to each other wirelessly, something called V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communication.

It’s not just some laboratory theory, either. MIT has worked with Ford on park-assist and cross-traffic alert systems, and the US Department of Transportation and manufacturers have prototypes using V2V technologies being road-tested. The group not only is continuing to work on this system but also planning to adapt it to air traffic control.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


About Boston Overdrive reports the latest trends, auto shows and wrings out the newest cars in our city's hellish maze — and across the great roads of New England.
Follow Cars on Facebook



Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
archives racing coverage

Dale Earnhardt Jr. shocked by Juan Montoya's departure from No. 42
By Michael Vega, Globe Staff LOUDON, N.H. --- Dale Earnhardt Jr., like most of his NASCAR brethren, was surprised to learn Tuesday that Juan Pablo...

More on Cars