Provable Systemwide Safety in Intelligent Intersections Academic Article uri icon


  • The automation of driving tasks is of increasing interest for highway traffic management. The emerging technologies of global positioning and intervehicular wireless communications, combined with in-vehicle computation and sensing capabilities, can potentially provide remarkable improvements in safety and efficiency. We address the problem of designing intelligent intersections, where traffic lights and stop signs are removed, and cars negotiate the intersection through an interaction of centralized and distributed decision making. Intelligent intersections are representative of complex hybrid systems that are increasingly of interest, where the challenge is to design tractable distributed algorithms that guarantee safety and provide good performance. Systems of automatically driven vehicles will need an underlying collision avoidance system with provable safety properties to be acceptable. This condition raises several challenges. We need to ensure perpetual collision avoidance so that cars do not get into future problematic positions to avoid an immediate collision. The architecture needs to allow distributed freedom of action to cars yet should guard against worst-case behavior of other cars to guarantee collision avoidance. The algorithms should be tractable both computationally and in information requirements and robust to uncertainties in sensing and communication. To address these challenges, we propose a hybrid architecture with an appropriate interplay between centralized coordination and distributed freedom of action. The approach is built around a core where each car has an infinite horizon contingency plan, which is updated at each sampling instant and distributed by the cars, in a computationally tractable manner. We also define a dynamically changing partial-order relation between cars, which specifies, for each car, a set of cars whose worst-case behaviors it should guard against. The architecture is hybrid, involving a centralized component that coordinates intersection traversals. We prove the safety and liveness of the overall scheme. The mathematical challenge of accurately quantifying performance remains as a difficult challenge; therefore, we conduct a simulation study that shows the benefits over stop signs and traffic lights. It is hoped that our effort can provide methodologies for the design of tractable solutions for complex distributed systems that require safety and liveness guarantees. 2011 IEEE.

published proceedings

  • IEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology

author list (cited authors)

  • Kowshik, H., Caveney, D., & Kumar, P. R.

citation count

  • 104

complete list of authors

  • Kowshik, Hemant||Caveney, Derek||Kumar, PR

publication date

  • January 2011