Artificial intelligence helps Chicago-area travelers fight traffic

John Dillenburg

John Dillenburg is co-principal investigator on a $5.5 million research contract to UIC’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory for its real-time traffic information system. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

Delays caused by Chicago-area traffic waste $6.2 billion a year in gasoline, time and pollution, according to the Texas Transportation Institute’s latest data.

UIC’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory fights traffic with real-time traffic information to travelers and software systems for traffic control.

The lab received a $5.5 million research contract from the Illinois Department of Transportation to continue research, development and operation of its Gateway Traveler Information System and website.

The contract, which runs through June 2016, extends the lab’s long-term relationship with IDOT.

“We are always enhancing the Gateway system,” said John Dillenburg, co-principal investigator and project director on the contract.

Interactive maps developed through the IDOT-UIC partnership provide travelers with information to avoid congestion. The maps can be scrolled and zoomed, allowing users to focus on the most useful information and delete unneeded data. Information is displayed in layers — travel times, congestion, construction, incidents, road labels and shields, dynamic message signs, cameras and special events.

Under the new research contract, the lab will expand, statewide, the IDOT lane-closure system that lets contractors in the Chicago area submit requests to close traffic lanes. The online system checks new requests to ensure that a buffer zone is maintained between construction projects — a great improvement over the previous flurry of emails and faxes, Dillenburg said.

The new contract will fund expansion of real-time congestion reporting south to the entire state, and east and west to span the I-94 corridor from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Detroit.

The lab plans an updated mobile app for Windows phones, as well as the currently supported iPhones and Androids.

Peter Nelson, professor of computer science, dean of engineering and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory director, is principal investigator on the contract. Senior personnel include software engineer Doug Rorem and research engineer Caleb Drake. The research contract supports 16 full-time staff and more than 15 part-time staff and students.


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