U of M Start-Up Hopes to Reduce Traffic Congestion

St. Paul-based start-up Smart Signal Technologies will market a system that can collect real-time traffic information from intersections to help controllers better mediate traffic flow.

A new St. Paul start-up, Smart Signal Technologies, Inc., is looking to commercialize a system it claims will cut traffic congestion at busy intersections.

The company licensed the technology from the University of Minnesota, where the system was invented by Henry Liu, a civil engineering professor, and his research team.

The traffic management system can calculate the length of vehicle queues at intersections with traffic signals, according to a university news release. The system, which includes a device that can be installed inside controller cabinets at street corners, collects data such as vehicle queue length-each time the light is red-and the time it takes to get through the intersection. It then transmits the information to a server in real-time using an Ethernet connection.

Transportation departments can then access the server to better control traffic lights and mediate traffic flow at intersections, the company said.

The company also claims its technology will improve the accuracy of traffic reports provided to the public by factoring in real-time vehicle queue lengths and travel times. Such estimates are currently available only on freeways where sensors record the speed and volume of traffic.

“Once you get off the freeway, people have no idea how long it takes to get through lights,” Smart Signal President and CEO Ken Shain said in a statement. “Because current travel information is based on whether the light is red or green.”

The start-up said its traffic management system will be affordable to municipalities as it can be implemented using existing equipment, such as existing controller cabinets. The system has already been field-tested on Highway 55 in Golden Valley, France Avenue in Bloomington, and Prairie Center Drive in Eden Prairie. It is also being used in Pasadena, California.

According to the Pioneer Press, the start-up received a $50,000 loan from the university that enabled its launch.