Everyone has their thing: college professor finds way to minimize time spent in traffic

The average American spends 42 hours a year in traffic -- and Carnegie Mellon professor Stephen Smith has dedicated part of his life to finding a solution.


October 26, 2017

Carnegie Mellon professor, Stephen Smith really hates sitting in traffic. So much so, that he’s dedicated part of his life to finding a better solution to US traffic systems, which haven’t changed in the last 50 years.

According to Smith, we spend 40% of our driving time at stop lights, and that time adds up: the average American spends 42 hours a year in traffic, collectively costing US drivers around $300B in 2016.

But don’t worry, our traffic hero is on the case

Smith and his partners have designed a “smart traffic system” called Surtrac, that moves vehicles through intersections more efficiently by changing traffic lights based on real-time traffic at intersections.

Pittsburgh — a city notorious for their bad drivers and archaic traffic systems — subscribed to Smith’s design back in 2015, and as a result, they’ve found that traffic has improved immensely along major streets.

And it seems to be catching on: at $20k per 4-way intersection, cities like Beverly Hills, Portland, and Dubai all plan to install Smith’s design in the near future.

Not bad for a guy obsessed with the mundanity of traffic lights.

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