Traffic Lights with Auction-Based Controllers: Algorithms and Real-World Data


Real-time optimization of traffic flow addresses important practical problems: reducing a driver's wasted time, improving city-wide efficiency, reducing gas emissions and improving air quality. Much of the current research in traffic-light optimization relies on extending the capabilities of traffic lights to either communicate with each other or communicate with vehicles. However, before such capabilities become ubiquitous, opportunities exist to improve traffic lights by being more responsive to current traffic situations within the current, already deployed, infrastructure. In this paper, we introduce a traffic light controller that employs bidding within micro-auctions to efficiently incorporate traffic sensor information; no other outside sources of information are assumed. We train and test traffic light controllers on large-scale data collected from opted-in Android cell-phone users over a period of several months in Mountain View, California and the River North neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The learned auction-based controllers surpass (in both the relevant metrics of road-capacity and mean travel time) the currently deployed lights, optimized static-program lights, and longer-term planning approaches, in both cities, measured using real user driving data.