Mr Amohelang Thoabala, a second year Computer Science student at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) is working on a system that will control traffic both automatically and manually as it continually reports to your mobile application.

It controls the traffic by “weighing” the cars moving towards traffic lights. Changing timings for “right of way” in favor of lanes or directions with more traffic!

The system also has other smart options. It will allow road users estimate arrival times to their destinations. It does this by showing your location, destination, alternative routes and the traffic lights you will pass through. It also calculate the time it will take to reach your destination for each route. TAKING TRAFFIC into account.

With this app, you may not have that punctuality problem with your boss anymore. You will now plan your time well before you hit the road!

In the end, the app may ultimately retire traffic officers, radio traffic announcers, and, you guessed it; night time car hijackers—those guys you live in fear of—all in one stroke!

This is how it all began. One day Thoabala was on a junction from Pioneer Mall to LNDC in Maseru when he noticed how traffic lights favored those cars moving towards the border post direction by giving it more time— unnecessarily in his view. Perhaps there used to be more traffic towards the favored direction in the past which might not be the case now.

He immediately thought that the traffic lights’ predetermined time controllers might be ineffective given Maseru’s modern traffic realities. As he quietly left, he had a plan—use modern technology to solve this problem!

In his view, Maseru Traffic lights or robots, as they are popularly known locally, may be having a hidden hand in your delayed arrival to work. They are rarely, if ever, blamed for it. Thus they have to undergo modern facelift to help you reach your destination faster.

These traffic lights, he observed, “will allow traffic from different lanes to flow, based on how they were programmed years ago! In fact they are so faithful to their program. They even control car movements at night even when there is just one car on the road!”

Car hijackers, of course, have taken advantage of this weakness. Nowadays they lurk on the traffic lights at night. When you are forced by traffic lights to stop, they pounce on you like hungry lions. “Those fatal stops,” Thoabala said, “will not always be necessary in the days of this system.”

Another problem he observed is that the “inflexible robots” do their part in testing Maseru drivers’ patience department, which is already running thin to start with. In the same day, as he moved towards the LNDC traffic lights. He observed that the “robots” gave his side so little time in comparison to others that some drivers just disobeyed and forced their way through. However, as we all know, along with impatience, come accidents.

So his technological solution goes this way. Cameras will be placed at convenient positions along the road to track traffic from opposing lanes or directions. These cameras will then relay the information to a central control system. The system will then communicate with traffic computers in traffic control offices and, more importantly, with your mobile apps.

“When the traffic is detected, the timing of the robots will change to favor the side that has the highest level of traffic,” he said. “If the level is the same from all directions the timing will be the same.”

But if there is little to no traffic at all, say at night time, and you are passing there alone, then the traffic lights would not stop your car. The splendor of the whole thing is that it happens automatically!

Besides, the system can also be set to a manual mode. Such that it is the traffic control officer, sitting in his office and relishing coffee in a cold winter day. Controlling the traffic based on the incoming information to his computer.

Bad news is that if the system becomes a success, many of those going through the infamous Maseru traffic jams may have to miss our astute, hardworking and dedicated traffic control officers.

Mr Thoabala has made some progress in his pursuit. “I managed to get the computer simulation done, and I have discovered its possibilities. However, it will be some time before I can do the real life testing of the system since I will have to work with the government for testing, provided I am allowed to test. Further, funding is also a must and I believe the government will not only love but also fund my idea.”

Basotho have been blamed for being always late for anything and everything. It turns out Mr Thoabala and his app were the proverbial missing link. Imagine a time when Basotho will NEVER be late again. NEVER!


This blog post was originally written by NUL Research and Innovations