Online game lets you try to solve traffic gridlock

A new online game developed by University of Minnesota Institute of Technology engineering faculty and staff in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute lets you try your hand at solving the morning traffic gridlock.

Gridlock busterA new online game developed by University of Minnesota Institute of Technology engineering faculty and staff in the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Institute lets you try your hand at solving the morning traffic gridlock.

"Gridlock Buster," developed in coordination with Web Courseworks to get high school students interested in transportation engineering, is a traffic control game that incorporates tools and ideas that traffic control engineers use in their everyday work. Players must pass a series of levels while acquiring specific skills in exercising control and fixing situations in a simulated environment. To play "Gridlock Buster," go to www.its.umn.edu/trafficcontrolgame.

For example, a player might need to manage a high volume of traffic passing through an intersection, where long lines form if vehicles don't get enough green-light time. The more drivers are delayed, the more frustrated they get - causing the game's "frustration meter" to rise. Sound effects and animation simulate cars honking and drivers' fists shaking to illustrate the realistic results of backed-up traffic queues.

Gridlock busterThe game is based on work by civil engineering staff member Chen-Fu Liao, the ITS Institute's education systems engineer. The goal is to provide a fun way to engage students in the traffic engineering field, teach what is involved in traffic grid management and make transportation interesting and relevant.

"Kids are really into games, especially online games. We think creating a game like Gridlock Buster is a great way to engage them and get them interested in engineering and transportation," said Max Donath, director of the ITS Institute and mechanical engineering professor. "The best way to learn is by playing."

The ITS Institute is federally funded through the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the United States Department of Transportation.

July 21, 2009