The concept of automated vehicles has existed for quite a while now, with more and more companies looking to adopt ideas surrounding self-driving and applying them to various projects in recent times. However, the importance of current traffic systems in managing and coordinating the movement of vehicles is often overlooked.
Microsoft believes that traffic systems such as visual traffic signals are inefficient in their current state, and are incapable of performing traffic management tasks at the required level. Therefore, in a newly published patent, the tech giant has proposed an automated system that not only controls traffic devices but also helps coordinate vehicle prioritization.
The basic idea of the techniques mentioned is to increase the efficiency of vehicle flow, which would also lead to side-benefits such as decreased fuel consumption and better travel time. Various vehicle identifiers can be used to calculate priority through traffic control devices. These could range from vehicle ID and license plates to emitted electronic and heat signals. This method could be expanded to associate some sort of organizational data with each vehicle, which could then be used to determine a priority level for it. Ambulance vans or public service vehicles could potentially be granted preference based on this model.
A system of routing traffic could also comprise of a mixture of visual traffic control signals communicating with a traffic control server. This server could then be configured based on various implementations. According to one implementation, priority levels could be associated with vehicle occupants instead of vehicles. For example, a person heading to a urgent meeting would be granted precedence over someone who isn't. However, details regarding the basis on which such priority-based systems might be regulated have not been provided.
Microsoft has stated that any of the aforementioned systems could be structured as "a computer-controlled apparatus, a computer process, a computing system, or as an article of manufacture such as a computer-readable medium". The ideas put forward do seem interesting, but there is no indication of which of these, if any, might we see actually being implemented in the future.