The Graz University of Technology in Austria has developed a system that uses cameras rather than buttons to operate traffic lights.
The system, which is to be trialled in Vienna next year, relies on cameras and computer algorithms to detect when people want to cross the road and to change the lights for them.
The project was commissioned by the City of Vienna and has been in development for the past two years at the Graz Institute of Computer Graphics and Vision.
Horst Possegger, a researcher at the institute, explained the advantages of the system. "The green phase can be extended in the case of large groups of persons, who require more time to cross the road. And if persons leave the waiting area before the lights have turned to green, this is also passed on to the lights.
"The traffic lights subsequently don’t switch to green and there are no unnecessary waiting times for motorised traffic," he said.
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He added: "It requires one second to estimate the intention – after two seconds the estimation becomes reliable."
The system uses a camera mounted on each traffic light with an unusually wide visual field of 8m by 5m. It is also equipped with a monitoring system that can report faults immediately, and answers privacy worries by keeping the images in the camera, rather than processing them over a network.
The underlying software was developed using global movement models, recorded data and machine learning to recognise how people behave when they want to cross a street.
A private company, GÃ¼nther Pichler, will now be responsible for installing the experimental crossings in Vienna city area.
Image: The system in action (GÃ¼nther Pichler)