Surtrac Traffic System Wins Le Monde Honors

RI Spinoff, Roadbotics, Earns Runner-Up Prize

The Surtrac intelligent traffic signaling system has won the Smart Cities Global Innovation Award for Mobility. Robotics Research Professor Stephen Smith, who led the project, will accept the award on June 2.

The Surtrac intelligent traffic signaling system developed by the Robotics Institute and spun off as Rapid Flow Technologies has won the Smart Cities Global Innovation Award for Mobility organized by France's Le Monde newspaper.

RoadBotics, another Robotics Institute project and spin-off, received a runner-up prize.

The leader of the Surtrac project, Research Professor of Robotics Stephen Smith, will accept the award at a ceremony in Singapore on Friday, June 2. The ceremony is part of a Smart Cities conference organized by Le Monde, Business France and the Straits Times — Singapore's most-read English language newspaper — at the National University of Singapore.

The Surtrac system employs artificial intelligence to coordinate traffic lights at a number of Pittsburgh intersections based on actual traffic conditions, thus improving traffic flow, reducing average travel time by 25 percent and cutting air pollution by 20 percent.

Begun with nine intersections in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood in 2012, the Surtrac system has expanded to 50 intersections in the city. The City of Pittsburgh has received a $10.8 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to add an additional 150 intersections to the Surtrac deployment.

The technology is uniquely designed to allow each traffic signal to make its own timing decisions. Each traffic signal senses approaching traffic streams and in real-time generates a timing plan that optimizes movement through its intersection. Traffic signals then share plans with neighboring signals to achieve coordinated action.

The long-term vision for Surtrac is to transform the urban transportation grid by integrating smart signal control with connected vehicle technology. Because Surtrac models and optimizes actual traffic flow, it can directly take advantage of any additional information that vehicles can provide. The connected infrastructure will enhance safety and mobility, for human-driven and self-driving vehicles alike.

As a first step, Smith’s team is working to equip Port Authority of Allegheny County buses with radios for communicating with Surtrac signals to better predict arrivals and to give buses priority when appropriate.

RoadBotics, a system that uses cameras mounted on garbage trucks to routinely monitor road and infrastructure conditions, was developed by Christoph Mertz, principal project scientist in the Robotics Institute. It received first runner-up recognition in the contest's Urban Innovation category.

Surtrac and RoadBotics, part of CMU's Metro21 Initiative, seek to research, develop and deploy solutions that improve safety, enhance mobility, promote efficiency and address pollution in urban environments.

"Our partnerships with the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and government agencies have been instrumental to the success of Surtrac, RoadBotics and other university technology," said Rick Stafford, executive director of Metro21. "Mayor Bill Peduto, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and other local leaders have created an environment in which our researchers can deploy projects that help transform urban environments and enhance quality of life."

Winners in the contest's seven categories were selected from over 200 nominations from five continents by an international jury of 17 city planners, sociologists, journalists and innovation experts. More information on the winners is available at Le Monde.

Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 |