Academy & Industry Research Collaboration Center (AIRCC)

Volume 11, Number 01, January 2021

Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Optimizing Traffic Signal Timing


Areej Salaymeh, Loren Schwiebert and Stephen Remias, Wayne State University, USA


Designing efficient transportation systems is crucial to save time and money for drivers and for the economy as whole. One of the most important components of traffic systems are traffic signals. Currently, most traffic signal systems are configured using fixed timing plans, which are based on limited vehicle count data. Past research has introduced and designed intelligent traffic signals; however, machine learning and deep learning have only recently been used in systems that aim to optimize the timing of traffic signals in order to reduce travel time. A very promising field in Artificial Intelligence is Reinforcement Learning. Reinforcement learning (RL) is a data driven method that has shown promising results in optimizing traffic signal timing plans to reduce traffic congestion. However, model-based and centralized methods are impractical here due to the high dimensional state-action space in complex urban traffic network.

In this paper, a model-free approach is used to optimize signal timing for complicated multiple four-phase signalized intersections. We propose a multi-agent deep reinforcement learning framework that aims to optimize traffic flow using data within traffic signal intersections and data coming from other intersections in a Multi-Agent Environment in what is called Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning (MARL).

The proposed model consists of state-of-art techniques such as Double Deep Q-Network and Hindsight Experience Replay (HER). This research uses HER to allow our framework to quickly learn on sparse reward settings. We tested and evaluated our proposed model via a Simulation of Urban MObility simulation (SUMO). Our results show that the proposed method is effective in reducing congestion in both peak and off-peak times.


Multi-agent, Deep learning, Traffic signal timing, Reinforcement learning.