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IBM's Patent-Pending Traffic Lights Stop Car Engines

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the even-red-lights-are-going-green dept.

IBM 423

theodp writes "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let your engine idle. The USPTO has just published IBM's patent application for a 'System and Method for Controlling Vehicle Engine Running State at Busy Intersections for Increased Fuel Consumption Efficiency.' Here's how Big Blue explains the invention: 'The present disclosure is directed to a method for managing engines in response to a traffic signal. The method may comprise establishing communications with participating vehicles; responding to a stop status indicated by the traffic signal, further comprising: receiving a position data from each participating vehicles; determining a queue of participating vehicles stopped at the traffic signal; determining a remaining duration of the stop status; sending a stop-engine notification to the list of participating vehicles stopped at the traffic signal when the remaining duration is greater than a threshold of time; responding to a proceed status indicated by the traffic signal, further comprising: sending a start-engine notification to a first vehicle in the queue; calculating an optimal time for an engine of a second vehicle in the queue to start; and sending the start-engine notification to the second vehicle at the optimal time.' IBM notes that 'traffic signals may include, but are not limited to, traffic lights at intersections, railway crossing signals, or other devices for indicating correct moments to stop and to proceed.'"

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For workers revolution! Smash imperilaism! (0, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314272)

Capitalism = slavery. Workers to power!

Railway crossing? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314284)

Hmmm, a computer at a railway crossing that can remotely disable a car's engine. To use the parlance of our times "What could possibly go wrong?"

Re:Railway crossing? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314378)

Yes, back in the day we had Luddites, but in our times, people who are uncomfortable with the progress of technology say "What could possibly go wrong?" instead.

Re:Railway crossing? (3, Insightful)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314522)

Actually engineers should be asking this question in all products and systems. That helps prevent things going wrong.

Re:Railway crossing? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314852)

Actually, engineers DO ask that. It's the business side that don't, or just don't care.

Re:Railway crossing? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314908)

Actually engineers should be asking this question in all products and systems.

As long as the answers have to pass the ethicists.

Re:Railway crossing? (2, Interesting)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314488)

combine this with onstar remote stops and do car jackers need any more tools?

Re:Railway crossing? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314640)

So, when you try to beat a yellow, you lose power steering and brakes? Lucky.

Re:Railway crossing? (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314916)

So, when you try to beat a yellow, you lose power steering and brakes?

I vote for ejection seats.

Re:Railway crossing? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314790)

Of course they go after controlling your engine instead of fixing the problem of the lights not being synchronized and optimized to begin with.

It's 2010 there is no excuse to drive into every city in the U.S. to stop and sit at every light forever while there are no cars coming from the other direction.

We should all charge the Government for our wasted time and fuel.

Hackers (1)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314882)

oh i can see some serious fun with this .........

Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (4, Interesting)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314298)

...if you don't ignore the fact that this is a blatant case of "patenting the goal". The patent is "here's a bunch of ideas that might work to control fuel consumption at signals, we claim them all."

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314354)

For prior art we can claim a paper I did in elementary school about 30 years ago, if anyone can find it.

Patents are completely broken.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314456)

For prior art we can claim a paper I did in elementary school about 30 years ago, if anyone can find it.

You wrote about networking traffic lights and cars, and applying queuing theory to increase fuel efficiency? Really? In elementary school?

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (2, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314614)

I see nothing wrong with his claim. I never toyed with that particular idea, but I toyed with similar ideas. How about if the traffic light sent a radio signal to automatically make your car stop, to prevent you running a red light? That was my idea in 5th grade. And, it's been more than 40 years ago that I was in elementary school!

Environmentalist's wet dream (4, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314838)

The ability to turn cars on and off at their whim.

How long until one hacks into the system and just turns them all off?

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

Arker (91948) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314644)

Yep. It's the most obvious thing in the world once you have all the components - computers, radio communication, traffic lights, and cars. I did a simulation/concept demonstration on my old Sinclair too.

I would certainly bet I was not the first to think of it either. Fuel efficiency was much more of a mantra in the 70s than the 80s, and though computer penetration was significantly less they certainly existed then too.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314700)

For prior art we can claim a paper I did in elementary school about 30 years ago, if anyone can find it.

You wrote about networking traffic lights and cars, and applying queuing theory to increase fuel efficiency? Really? In elementary school?

I know it is hard for you to believe, but yes, other students were having actual complex thoughts about things in elementary school while you were struggling to move beyond "Mmmmmmmm paste..."

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314460)

For prior art we can claim a paper I did in elementary school about 30 years ago, if anyone can find it.

I believe student projects are not claimable as prior art, which is sad. At the very least, if a young, learning, practitioner in training can generate an idea, then almost by definition, it must be "obvious to a practitioner skilled in the art". Students are practitioners in training. If a student can figure it out, then it should make the idea should either be unpatentable, or patentable only by the student that first came up with the idea.

As it the law is currently, a corporation can patent something, and student projects are not prior art.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314782)

"I believe student projects are not claimable as prior art"

Prior art is not something that is claimed.

If you did that as a student project, and your work somehow became public (e.g. as in a paper held where any member of the public could be present; or as a thesis available in the library of the educational institution), then it is prior art, can be provided to the Examiner as a third party message (with proof, which may be pretty hard if it was available only as a paper; you'd have to get members of the audience to testify), and will be held against the grant of a patent application. If the patent has already been granted, I guess it will be included in the file (don't know for certain what the USPTO does with it), as a result of which - in case IBM wants to accuse someone of infringement - the deemed infringer will find the document and will use it to fend off IBM.

Bert

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314636)

For prior art, you can claim the likes of Automatic Train Protection - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_train_protection [wikipedia.org] . In such a system, if a train passes a signal at danger (red light), it applies the brakes and stops the train. It has been around since at least the 1980s. You may well have seen reports about this when you were doing your elementary school paper.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (5, Insightful)

Cassini2 (956052) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314396)

I've never perceived the problem of getting vehicles to turn off engines at traffic lights as being a technical issue. Rather, the problem is much more one of regulation, and forcing everyone to adopt a standard. To make the strategy work, you need to:

(a) get every state in the union, and perhaps every municipality in every state, to modify their traffic lights in the same way, and
(b) get every automaker to make cars that with electronic modules that work with the *SAME* standard as the traffic lights, and
(c) get every class action litigator to agree to not sue anyone.

Business text books clearly say to "run away" from any system that requires broad corporate/public/governmental agreement, particularly if the system involves long-term governmental and corporate cooperation.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (2, Insightful)

SpzToid (869795) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314560)

Not to argue against your very strong valid points, however I would like to remind you of the seemingly similar high odds of super-market checkout scanners being adopted, everywhere, within a reasonable amount of time.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314770)

They weren't. The standard UPC was adopted in the 70s, but it took many years before it became ubiquitous. I still remember working at JCPenney in the 90s and either wanding JPC's self-created tag or manually typing in the numbers by hand. The UPC was completely ignored because the store simply didn't have the necessary equipment.

So it took about a quarter-century between adoption of the UPC and the ability for all stores to read them.

IBM favors patent quantity over quality (4, Informative)

FlorianMueller (801981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314424)

...if you don't ignore the fact that this is a blatant case of "patenting the goal". The patent is "here's a bunch of ideas that might work to control fuel consumption at signals, we claim them all."

I agree that that this isn't really a fully-disclosed invention. Generally, IBM is more interested in patenting as much as possible just to create patent thickets and later shut out or tax real innovators with bullying tactics [blogspot.com] . The blog post I just linked to also mentions IBM's claim (made in early 2009) to have a number of patents "larger than those from Microsoft, HP, Oracle, Apple, EMC, Accenture, and Google combined." The blog post [blogspot.com] also mentions research that shows the average commercial value of an IBM patent is fairly low as compared to the portfolios of such competitors as Microsoft. The patent that gave rise to this slashdot article may be another example.

IBM has also been a long-standing aggressive force in pushing the envelope concerning the scope of patentable subject matter in the field of software. Courts can't be lobbied the way politicians are lobbied (which is something at which IBM is also extremely aggressive) but companies can try to bring up court case after court case pushing the envelope with new arguments in order to find loopholes to extend the range of what's patentable. The recent landmark decision in Germany [blogspot.com] , effectively lowering the bar for software patentability in the largest EU member state, was related to a Siemens patent, but other landmark cases in the US as well as in Europe (at the level of the European Patent Office as well as in individual European countries such as Germany) related to legal recourse sought by IBM in order to obtain patents on "inventions" of an ever lower standard.

At the lobbying front, the FFII (a European non-governmental organization fighting software patents and pushing for open standards) listed IBM as one of the four IT companies [blogspot.com] pushing hard for an overall patent and patent court reform in Europe aiming to strengthen the rights of patent holders and the legal basis for software patents.

This doesn't mean to say that IBM is the only company doing it, let alone the only one with an interest in this, but others entered the game relatively late and IBM has a history of decades of pursuing that agenda of an ever broader scope of patentable subject matter.

Re:IBM favors patent quantity over quality (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314900)

One of the largest reasons for having such a huge patent portfolio is mainly to discourage patent trolls from trying to sue IBM. Especially if it is another manufacturer they can shut down competition that goes after them in the courts by throwing up enough other patents to make it a patent war on a large scale. So from a defensive standpoint, IBM is merely doing a good business practice by taking a bad system and trying not to get harmed by it.

I've never really understood the patent system in the first place, as it really doesn't protect "the little guy", in other words the lone tinkerer in a garage who comes up with some crazy idea and wants to earn some bucks from the concept. Until anybody can show that such a person is legitimately protected, I have to consider the patenting process as something more of a scam that is designed to extract money from those who are least able to afford it. For a private person to patent something, I would consider it to be 99% of the time to be an utter mistake.

For a corporation that already has full time lawyers working for them, having some of that legal time engaged in dealing with patent protection perhaps makes some practical sense. In other words, this is a system that mainly protects those who already have money and not those struggling to get some in the first place.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

newdsfornerds (899401) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314454)

Yeah, you should only be able to patent implementations of ideas, not ideas. If you are able to patent the idea you are then able to do a poorly conceived, inefficient implementation which nobody else will be able to improve upon unless they have deeper pockets than you and can afford to fight you in patent court for the next 20 years.

Re:Yes, novel, non-obvious and useful... (1)

Schmorgluck (1293264) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314744)

...if you ignore the fact that this is a blatant case of "patenting the goal".

Fix'd it for you. Learn to use negatives, and when not to use them.

But yeah, I agree, and here's a big giveaway for a patent to be plain bogus: the use of contitional. There's no place for conditional in a patent filing. No uncertainty should be admitted in what is supposed to be a full disclosure of an entire process with all its whereabouts. Therefore, this patent is bogus until it can be reformulated using exclusively the indicative mood. Period.

This could be a convenient way to purge a lot of bogus patents, very easy to automatize. "Sorry, your patent just got invalidated for using conditional mood. You've got one month to reformulate it using exclusively the indicative."

Sounds good. (4, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314302)

VW (and other car manufacturers probably) already have cars that shut off at stop lights. The "3L" car they made (78.4 MPG, no batteries required) shuts down at stop lights. All this is doing is making it 'intelligent'.

Re:Sounds good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314320)

But what if I don't want my car to shut off at a stop light.

Hell what if I'm at a stop light and an ambulance shows up behind ya and you have to get over.

but nope. you can't.

car engine is off.

or hell what if you get stuck in the intersection.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314404)

Then you disable the "eco fuel mode" All the stop light does is suggest that you should power down or you restart the car.

And how would you get 'stuck' in an intersection?

Hell I already power my car down on long stop lights never, not once, ever had a problem.

Re:Sounds good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314476)

>Hell I already power my car down on long stop lights never, not once, ever had a problem.

You aren't saving any appreciable amount of fuel by doing that.

Also, I hope you have an electric water pump or else you are putting needless wear on your engine by stopping coolant flow like that.

Re:Sounds good. (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314668)

I had the same thought - he's probably not saving fuel by turning off the ignition at a stop light. But, I didn't want to commit to actually TELLING HIM that he's wasting fuel. Just maybe, some manufacturer has come up with a more fuel efficient method of restarting a hot engine or something.

But, yes, in most vehicles, it is going to take more fuel to restart the engine than to just wait for the traffic light. Someone told me once what the break-even point was, but I don't really remember. 3 minutes? Maybe a bit less. It probably varies for different size engines, and different idle speeds - in fact, it's probably different between automatic and manual vehicles.

Personally, I'm not about to turn off an engine unless I KNOW that I'm stuck for 5 minutes or more.

Re:Sounds good. (2, Interesting)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314784)

The break even point is much less than 3 minutes. It's actually around 7-10 seconds. And it's a fairly noticeable improvement in MPG, depending on your city driving miles. I've gotten upwards of 4-5+ MPG per tank with turning the engine off vs. idling at the stop lights.

Re:Sounds good. (4, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314648)

Some of this is an issue of reliability and having an engine designed for multiple restarts. For at least older gasoline vehicles, starting an engine can cause hell on the internal wear of engine parts and is generally discouraged on a practical dollars and cents level as you will be paying far more in engine repair bills than the little bit of money that you save for turning off an engine. Even if you are a backyard mechanic and figuring in the cost of the replacement parts alone, it can get quite expensive. If you factor in the environmental factors for metal refinement used to make these parts and shipping those parts across the country to get them to you, it could be argued that turning off engines actually does more harm to the environment and perhaps even more carbon pollution than simply keeping the engine running.... at least if the time you keep the engine off is but a short period of time. The rule of thumb I've heard is you start to save money if you are going to be stopped for more than a few minutes... that is not the amount of time people are typically at an intersection waiting for a street light.

The point being that you need a vehicle designed explicitly for being turned off and restarted on a whim and have that happen repeatedly during a typical driving experience.

BTW, part of the patent here is that it specifically addresses the above issue I mention, where the manufacturer puts into is electronic control system some sort of calculation for how long an engine ought to be kept on before wear and tear on the engine from restart begins to do some damage, and if the traffic signals "intelligently" indicate that the wait time is going to be longer than that predetermined time period, that the engine shuts off while the car is already stopped anyway. It is an interesting solution to the issue, but I'm not really sure how "non-obvious" that concept really is if the goal is to engage in saving fuel in this manner. A competent automotive engineer would have responded to the same engineering goals with at least that same sort of solution.... which to me makes the idea not patentable. Of course who ever said that the USPTO ever made sense on what they considered for a patent.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314786)

You assume the oil pump is mechanically driven like it is today. Large diesel engines, the ones that are used for emergency standby power generation have oil pumps that are run off of grid power.

Re:Sounds good. (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314834)

"All the stop light does is suggest that you should power down or you restart the car."

Which is the dumbest fucking thing in the world as you'll use MORE gas starting back up than idling for the two or three minutes a typical traffic light takes to cycle.

Re:Sounds good. (5, Insightful)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314498)

The problem is the damn headline, that makes the idea sound Orwellian. It isn't. It's not about disabling your engine, or some other DRM-style idea. It's about giving your car additional information that it can choose to use to increase fuel efficiency.

Are you familiar with the idea of correlated equilibrium from game theory? By giving players a common instruction, which they can choose either to follow or to disobey, you can often get better Nash equilibria than if you simply made the players decide what to do independently. That's what this is -- applied to engine management.

Re:Sounds good. (1, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314716)

Screw you. It's For The Earth. When it's For The Earth, you will obey the authorities.

But what if I don't want my car to shut off at a stop light.

If you know what's good for you, you'll learn to say you want it.

Another patent goes with this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314306)

Did they patent "Doing vast and comic violence to idiot city planners, car manufacturers, and programmers that think turning control of a heavy vehicle over to an idiot program is a good idea."? Because I suspect that there might be a market for it.

This may mess up right on red or end up like Toyot (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314314)

This may mess up right on red or end up like Toyota end lead to some like car CPU lockup that ends in a bad way.

Well, now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314316)

That will certainly make it easier to pull out of the way of the 5-ton fire engine coming up behind you when you're the first one on the line at the red light.

And that use-case didn't even take me 2 seconds to figure out.

I wonder about inventors sometimes....

I *also* wonder why Slashdot has so *much* trouble letting me be logged in, but what-the-fuck-ever...

Re:Well, now (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314532)

"That will certainly make it easier to pull out of the way of the 5-ton fire engine coming up behind you when you're the first one on the line at the red light.

And that use-case didn't even take me 2 seconds to figure out."

It's fair and reasonable to call the idea "fucking stupid". Not "questionable", or "of doubtful utility", just "fucking stupid".

That every response to it on this thread isn't one of instant scorn suggests that some readers are technically illiterate, clueless, airheaded, or just need to be savagely LARTed.

And in other news... (1)

pla (258480) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314332)

The day they actually implement this, I start caring about (and driving) "antique" (aka exempt) cars.

Seriously... Great idea in theory. In practice, how many times have you sat waiting for a light and suddenly had to move NOW? Either for an ambulance, or some moron going too fast and turning far too widely, or a tractor trailer at a tight intersection that would otherwise have rolled its back tires over your hood, or even suddenly having to run the light to avoid getting rear-ended by someone coming up behind you completely oblivious to the light?

Good luck with all of those if the light itself has the power to kill your car. Oh, safety override, you say? Only if I can leave it on override 100% of the time.

One more reason (1)

iwaybandit (1632765) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314582)

Most traffic lights in metro Atlanta seem to be perfectly unsynchronized, forcing motorists to wait through several cycles. Shutting the engine off for that length of time, the interior temperature is likely to exceed 100F (38C) before you to make it to the next red light. A similar scenario could play out in the colder climates, since the heater core will stay warm for a minute or so once the engine coolant stops flowing.

If the hybrids have a provision to run the electric motor to drive the air conditioner, I might tolerate IBM's plan. OTOH, do what I did, move to a town that has no traffic lights.

Re:And in other news... (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314610)

I'd say the intersections you use need other improvements in safety. I honestly can't remember a time when I've had any of that happen, with the exception of the ambulances, of course... but they have sirens that warn me it's coming in plenty of time to restart the engine.

Re:And in other news... (3, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314696)

Seriously... Great idea in theory. In practice, how many times have you sat waiting for a light and suddenly had to move NOW? Either for an ambulance, or some moron going too fast and turning far too widely, or a tractor trailer at a tight intersection that would otherwise have rolled its back tires over your hood, or even suddenly having to run the light to avoid getting rear-ended by someone coming up behind you completely oblivious to the light?

In 20 years of driving, only the emergency vehicle one. I've never had any of those other situations. That's not to say they don't happen, but I am left wondering why you imagine they are common occurrences that happen to everyone.

Secondly, I wonder why whenever a new idea/patent/invention is brought up here, some people object to it on the basis of assuming that the worst possible implementation is the one that would be done; that the inventor hasn't already considered the problems that come into your mind within seconds of hearing the idea, and dealt with them. And that an implementation would be continued with if such problems remained.

a sizable number of people already do switch off their engines if they are in a quene of traffic and are going to be waiting a long time. And this doesn't seem t have caused problems. So there doesn't seem to be a problem with switching engines off in queues per se.

A rational implementation would of course not switch the engine off unless the car was already stationary with the parking break applied. And it would not stop the driver from restarting the engine with the ignition key if needed. These obvious details seem to deal with all your fears.

Re:And in other news... (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314750)

How many times have you seen somebody stall out (or been that driver in a stalled out car) where the engine simply won't restart? There are multiple reasons for that, and I'll admit it tends to happen on older cars that really need some maintenance happen on those engines, but it is something that to me causes more problems than the solution it is trying to fix.

BTW, I have to agree with you on the need at times to be able to punch the gas to get out of a sticky situation... which is one of the problems with gasoline vehicles. It takes some time to get the engines "warmed up" even in the best of circumstances, and certainly it takes some time from when the ignition is started to when you have power available to do something like get out of the way in the circumstances you are noting. We are not talking electric vehicles here, or even a hybrid engine that at least has some reserve electrical power to pull away at a moment's notice.

Of course I consider the big brother issues to be even larger, where some law enforcement officer can flip your engine off to meet some "public safety" requirement (whatever they may be or even if it is a legitimate concern) and essentially giving control over your vehicle in an intimate manner to somebody who really doesn't necessarily deserve that level of trust. So in this regards, I consider this as much of a political issue as it is a technical one, and something that cedes too much authority to a government entity. "Saving the environment" is not something I consider important enough to give up personal liberties on a fundamental level of this nature.

Unnecessary if.... (4, Insightful)

ktappe (747125) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314346)

This patent would be much less necessary if cities would install intelligent traffic lights that allowed traffic to flow and thus minimized idling engines.

Re:Unnecessary if.... Easier said than done ... (1)

Herschel Cohen (568) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314602)

On one route through my town, we have computerized stop lights. However, I have noticed that with heavy traffic on the main route and build up on the cross streets, once stopped the traffic flow at the next light is effectively halted. Thus, without excessive speed most traffic signals thereafter will be red and effectively kill traffic flow on the main route through town.

I have to drive the route early when traffic is building, but not yet at a maximum density. In order to beat the waiting reds, I drive below (or nearly so) the posted speed limit. Moreover, my final approach to signals I use even lower speeds to have some momentum when the signal changes. Does not always work, but lessens the need to start from first gear at every light. However, sometimes I have no trouble at all flying through most lights unhindered, usually the mornings, but not all days.

Re:Unnecessary if.... Easier said than done ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314688)

computerized != intelligent

Re:Unnecessary if.... (1)

gemada (974357) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314702)

they have existed for almost a hundred years. They are called traffic circles. Too bad they seem to be phasing them out everywhere for not being "modern" enough.

Totally unnecessary... (1)

xded (1046894) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314814)

This system is totally unnecessary, since engines are not going to be idling anymore with the introduction of the start and stop system [wikipedia.org] .

Seen it in action on a Fiat 500 [wikipedia.org] here in Italy and looks working pretty well (even if at first it is kinda strange hearing the engine shut off that way).

IBM can't stop me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314352)

I drive a Toyota!

Great Idea, But... (5, Interesting)

iYk6 (1425255) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314358)

This is a great idea. But it's being done the wrong way. Rather than sending signals to start and stop cars, the traffic lights should just send signals saying how long the red light is going to be, and while they're at it, specify how long the green lights will be too. Then the smart cars should interpret that how they will, by stopping, starting, or showing a light to the driver. This method will upgrade smoother and be more resistant to jokers with toys at the intersections.

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

bbqsrc (1441981) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314434)

Why not just put the timer on the traffic lights themselves then and allow the human to manually decide what happens? Either fully automate our personal motorcoaches or gtfo.

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314558)

Why not just put the timer on the traffic lights themselves then and allow the human to manually decide what happens? Either fully automate our personal motorcoaches or gtfo.

I think your idea of putting a visible countdown timer on lights might not be a bad idea. However, I also don't see an automated system as taking unnecessary control from the driver any more than I see using an automatic transmission that way. It's just a way to reduce cognitive load, and presumably have the computer make decisions more efficiently than the human could. So long as you can disable the system when you need to, and the engine automatically restarts when you manually hit the gas (a la cruise control and the brake), I think the driver has retained enough control, no?

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

takev (214836) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314598)

They have a few of those now in amsterdam, as a pedestrian it is very useful to decide if you want to wait for the green light, or just cross against the red light instead.

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

he-sk (103163) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314682)

Why not just put the timer on the traffic lights themselves...

And give teenagers and other morons one more incentive to race their cars? What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314506)

Totally agree.

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314536)

Quick, patent it.

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

Bazman (4849) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314662)

Perhaps your idea already is patented? Checked? I would reckon IBM have, and then decided they could patent this too, since it doesnt infringe on the 'just tell the car' patent. Maybe the author of that patent thought the 'stop the car remotely' idea was too improbable.

Of course they're only doing it in order to get their quota of patents up in their annual reports.

Re:Great Idea, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314792)

That's next weeks patent submission

Re:Great Idea, But... (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314920)

Well, in China, there's a countdown that is displayed in many crosses. That way, when I see that I will have to wait more than 15 seconds, I turn off my engine. 15 seconds is how much it takes to make it worth turning off the engine. Less than this, and you will consume more petrol starting the engine than leaving it running idle during 14 seconds (at least, this is what I read). Sure, this would be nicer if it was all automated, but it's cool enough to be able to do it to begin with.

Sounds like a great idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314368)

Until *you're* the one in the ambulance stuck in rush hour traffic behind a bunch of cars at a red light that physically can't move.

And yes, I know the emergency lights on the ambulance can trip the intersection into emergency mode. Usually, the intersection will go all RED, for obvious reasons...

Obsessed with lines! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314388)

I think to remember they patented a method for toilet waiting lines and now they patent a method involving lines of cars.

I think they are obsessed with lines, maybe because they spend a lot of time on the line to patent stupid methods.

but what if (2, Insightful)

MalHavoc (590724) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314392)

suppose your car has been told to shut off at a red light. What happens if you need to suddenly perform crash avoidance? One of the standard things taught in driver school is leaving enough room between you and the car in front of you in case you need to avoid a rear collision. I'm not sure insurance companies are going to go for this.

Re:but what if (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314556)

Never in my life have I ever seen or heard anyone perform rear collision avoidance @ a red light as per your example. If you want to think of an example of this system being flawed, atleast choose something which happens once in a while. My example, what happens if your engine is shut off, and an ambulance/cop/firetruck needs to get through??!!!!

Re:but what if (1)

KDN (3283) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314658)

That actually reminds me of a real incident. I was stopped at a light, cars in front of me. I notice a truck coming up behind me. Suddenly I see the truck lurch downward as I hear brakes slamming. I didn't even think, I rapidly turned the wheel left and floored the engine. He missed me, but he stopped roughly where my front seat was. With this new system my car would be totalled as well as the car in front of me, and maybe damage to the next one as well.

Re:but what if (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314776)

suppose your car has been told to shut off at a red light. What happens if you need to suddenly perform crash avoidance? One of the standard things taught in driver school is leaving enough room between you and the car in front of you in case you need to avoid a rear collision. I'm not sure insurance companies are going to go for this.

Not to mention that fire truck/ambulance/police car behind you that needs to get through the red light. Sorry guys but my car won't start.

Re:but what if (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314810)

suppose your car has been told to shut off at a red light. What happens if you need to suddenly perform crash avoidance?

That's a question akin to the old excuse for not wearing seat belts: "what happens if I'm knocked unconscious in a crash and can't undo my seat belt to get out of a car that's going to explode?". Well, if you're unconscious you're not going to be undo your seat belt are you? The same for crash avoidance with the engine off when stopped at a stop light - you're stopped. You aren't going to avoid a crash. It's unlikely there will be time for you to react by taking your foot off the brake, onto the gas, and (assuming there's space to actually do something) move/accelerate clear of the potential accident.
 

One of the standard things taught in driver school is leaving enough room between you and the car in front of you in case you need to avoid a rear collision.

And how exactly does this work? You pull forward a few feet and the car coming at you still hits you, only it hits you a little bit later than otherwise. Assuming you have the sure and certain foreknowledge that the oncoming car *is* going to hit you, early enough for you to do something about it - something I find fairly unlikely.
 
Assuming you're in the US, this sounds like a holdover from the days when most cars had manual transmissions and on the slightest of hills tended to roll a bit backwards when going from stopped to going forward. It certainly (except in exceptionally hilly situations) seems to make no sense today.

Solution looking for a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314416)

Wouldn't it be easier and far cheaper to simply have the car's engine control computer implement a count down timer ? If the engine is up to temperature, and the car has been stopped 15 seconds, turn off the engine. As an added bonus, it would work everywhere, such as in a drive-through or car wash, and not just at stop lights.

Roundabouts! (1)

SirDrinksAlot (226001) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314428)

More roundabouts and less traffic lights. Roundabouts are way more efficient for traffic than stop signs and lights, though they do have the disadvantage of retards on the road failing to navigate them properly. We have one out side of our office and it's like the gong show during rush hour. The rest of the day the thing works really well except for the odd moron driving the wrong way or stopping for no reason at all.

Re:Roundabouts! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314580)

Here, in Spain, we love roundabouts. We put them everywhere.
And then, we put stop light on them.

That's efficiency.

Re:Roundabouts! (2, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314676)

In a lot of busy roundabouts you still need traffic lights, otherwise you can have one flow of traffic blocking everyone else out.

Re:Roundabouts! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314822)

The problem with roundabouts is that they are incredibly expensive and something that chews up some real estate more than a simple intersection. Any time you start to condemn property it is going to be a political mess to start with. Of course even traffic lights chew up real estate and cause problems if the government entity hasn't made zoning allowances to get an intersection built with those lights.

BTW, I like roundabouts for the most part, and I've seen how they can actually handle more traffic than a standard 4-way stop or even a simple traffic light... and certainly it keeps the traffic moving. They also take up far less real estate than a clover-leaf intersection or other similar methods that are intended to keep traffic flowing at high volumes.

public domain disclosure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314440)

I hereby disclose the following to the public domain: " A device for disabling traffic-light driven engine start and stop systems. The device shall consist a switch (mechanical or logical within the vehicles computer systems). The device should be required on all vehicles with automated engine start/stop systems to prevent vehicle shutdowns in case of emergency. The onboard computer system may elect to enable or disable automated engine start/stop based on driver preference and/or vehicle operating conditions. Specifically if a vehicle engine has not reached efficient operating temperature the automated engine shutdown may be disabled until the engine reaches design temperature so as to reduce the creation of noxious gases due to incomplete combustion."

Shutting down idling engines is nice and all, but there are times when it is the wrong thing to do. There go those 1BMer's again, missed the full scope of the problem.

I want a car with a survival instinct. (2, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314464)

I wish all funding for that would be diverted to making a car with a survival instinct: Proximity sensors for collision avoidance, sensors to determine road conditions of maximum safe speeds accordingly, etc.

Once it becomes rare for someone to die in a car accident, THEN they can mess around with red light idling algorithms and self-driving cars. Just pick your priorities: Safety first.

Re:I want a car with a survival instinct. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314600)

The casualties incurred in transportation are already at an easily tolerable level (demonstrated every day). Adding gross complexity would increase purchase cost, maintenance cost, and add potential points of failure (as we are seeing with 'Yota electronic problems).

You have far too much faith in sensors.

As an aircraft mechanic and former avionics tech, I note that even Very Expensive Sensors still shit the bed.
Affordable Consumer Sensors will be much less reliable.

Not necessarily forced (2, Informative)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314480)

Upon receiving the stop-engine notification, the vehicles may automatically switch off the engine, or display an alert informing drivers to manually switch off the engines. A vehicle may optionally notify the service once its engine is switched off.

For all of you concerned about not having complete control.

The summary doesn't effectively explain when this would be useful. At most lights, it won't matter. The example the patent gives is a 2 minute light, for which it is inefficient to restart the engine state. It suggests "waiting for 10 minutes for a railway to clear" as a case where this would be useful.

The patent seems very vague. It talks about processing information about the movement about other cars, doesn't comment on what should be looked for, how that information is to be determined, or how wait-time should be estimated. It basically seems to be a patent for the idea of signaling the car when a long wait is anticipated.

Re:Not necessarily forced (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314672)

The summary doesn't effectively explain when this would be useful. At most lights, it won't matter. The example the patent gives is a 2 minute light, for which it is inefficient to restart the engine state. It suggests "waiting for 10 minutes for a railway to clear" as a case where this would be useful.

I don't know how smart you can make the cars, but I imagine this could be used to implement several "sleep stages" of an engine not unlike a CPU. I mean cars are at idle even when you're waiting to for a gap in traffic to make a turn, it has to be quite responsive. If you know there's a full minute until you will move again, can you do better? It might not be huge but across millions of cars and millions of traffic lights I can at least see some potential.

What fun! (1)

Steven_M_Campbell (409802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314486)

Wait, you're gonna make it so peoples cars will shut off their engines when they receive a signal from a transmitter the could be in someone elses car? Really, this is gonna be more fun than the taco bell takeover.

takeover vid is here if you've never seen it
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6073744870619162433# [google.com]

Networking? Bad idea... (2, Interesting)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314508)

What this patent fails to account for is that starting up the car results in increased fuel consumption for the short period while the engine attains running speed. Short period, though, but multiply it by the number of signals in an average city, and it might just come out that this actually increases sum consumption.

Also, I'd like to draw your attention to a post [blogspot.com] detailing just what can happen if we introduce networking into cars. And this is even made easier by the forced standards needed for this project to work...

Re:Networking? Bad idea... (2, Informative)

SagSaw (219314) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314772)

What this patent fails to account for is that starting up the car results in increased fuel consumption for the short period while the engine attains running speed. Short period, though, but multiply it by the number of signals in an average city, and it might just come out that this actually increases sum consumption.

Keep in mind that a number of automakers are developing "stop-start" systems for their future models. Cars equipped with these systems will shut off the engine automatically after a period of stationary idling and restart the engine automatically when the driver steps on the gas. Unlike most current vehicles, where the driver must stop the engine manually, these systems only stop the engine when it is expected to save fuel. Further, the power-train is designed to restart immediately once the driver presses the gas pedal (either with a starter-alternator or by stopping the engine with one cylinder compressed and ready-to-fire).

Traffic signals that inform the vehicle of the amount of time before the next green phase can make these systems more efficient since it will allow the vehicle to determine whether it is likely to be stationary for long enough to save fuel by stopping the engine.

Also, I'd like to draw your attention to a post detailing just what can happen if we introduce networking into cars. And this is even made easier by the forced standards needed for this project to work...

IMHO...there are three problems noted in the paper: A challenge-response mechanism that is easily brute-forced, CAN nodes which fail to properly implement the challenge-response security mechanism, and CAN nodes which fail to do proper sanity checking before accepting commands via the debugging protocol. None of these issues are made worse by installing a traffic-light receiver.

Re:Networking? Bad idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314918)

|From what I have come to understand, modern engines are nowhere as bad as older engines in this respect. From what I have been told by my local law enforcement, any idling longer then 20 seconds will use more gas then shutting down and restarting the engine. Also, my sister's Mazda 3 (A/T) has their i-Stop tech (turning off the engine whenever the car is still for more then a few seconds). She does mostly city driving, and she gets damn good mileage with it.

Where's a gear-head when you need him . . . (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314510)

Doesn't starting a car engine consume a lot of gas . . . like, more than you would if you just left it idling?

I rode in a friend's BMW that shut the engine off when not moving, and it seemed to be a royal fucking pain in the ass to get the damn thing started again. This was in city conditions, where a lot of stop and goes are common.

On the other hand the PolygamousRanchSister has a Prius, and I didn't notice any problems with that.

Oh, and either MAKE or Wired will have instructions on making such a car stopper. Some dumb-ass will actually build it and use it. I would never buy a car with such a "feature." I want to be in full control of my vehicle, all of the time.

Re:Where's a gear-head when you need him . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314638)

That was always my impression as well, and others do have even more valid point wrt heating/cooling.

Not to mention it sounds like just another that WILL break and be EXPENSIVE to repair.

Re:Where's a gear-head when you need him . . . (1)

graffix01 (973350) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314806)

I believe newer cars don't really use much gas to start up. The question might be more about wear and tear as starting your car is fairly hard on the engine. Maybe not so much once it's warmed up but still a consideration.

What if a car has trouble starting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314526)

This seems like a bad idea, because cars might be running less than optimally. What if a car has been having engine troubles so it doesn't always start consistently?

Emergency vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314534)

will it allow Emergency vehicles to turn vehicle engines back on so I can GET the HELL out of the way when there is an emergency?

Recently, at a crossing ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314568)

... in Germany. It was a 2-by-2 lane crossing. I was first on the left, to the right three or four cars already queued. In the back, an ambulance approaching at speed. With my engine ready, I simply skipped to the head of the queue on the right - crossing The Line in the process - and the ambulance passed. Easy.

Now consider the engine was turned off by the traffic lights. What am I going to do? "Sorry guv, lights killed my engine, you have to wait" or maybe push the car out of the way? OTOH, maybe one wouldn't need to - the ambulance wouldn't be able to run the lights anyway. Their engine would be turned off. WTF?

The only computer in my vehicle is ME (1)

davidbrucehughes (451901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314592)

Near where I live in South India, there is a town with a population of 200,000 with exactly zero traffic lights. You have to drive two hours to a bigger town to even find a traffic light. Sometimes they even work; and then, some people even consider obeying them. That is, if it's not too inconvenient. My goodness, how uncivilized! But it's way cheaper and works much better than the zombified control-freak nonsense of a light and camera and computer and radio control on every frickin' corner. What kind of idiots would put up with that?

Re:The only computer in my vehicle is ME (0, Troll)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314730)

i agree, this is better than the 'mere humans should not be allowed to drive' attitude that proponents of government regulation are pushing.

a simpler system would be to just put an electric motor in the car and be done with it, failing that there are already cars around that switch off while standing still.

Some of these people pushing for more government control and regulation are trying to basically put DRM into the car - trying to make your own property that you paid thousands for obey the government instead of you.

*Mandatory GPS speed limiters
*Mandatory driverless cars
*Pervasive ANPR systems
*GPS/tag based road charging
*Banning of motorcycles

All this shit is bad news and its all thought up by people who prefer their life to be boring and clinical. Sure if these people had their way things would be safer, maybe there would even be a tiny bit less pollution but fuck it, would life even be worth living with those guys controlling it?

Re:The only computer in my vehicle is ME (1)

nextekcarl (1402899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314842)

Where have you seen motorcycles banned?!?

This is too stupid -- life is complicated. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314596)

I can't wait for IBM to get sued when some car owner needs to quickly get their car out of the way in an emergency. This can range from an oncoming vehicle, to a natural disaster (like a flood). What happens when there is an emergency and the driver needs to run a red light? Surely, if your brother is bleeding out in the passenger seat, it might be advisable to run the red light (provided no oncoming traffic is present of course) to get to the emergency room.

Life is complicated. We can not foresee how policies will affect the minority of cases. Unfortunately, it is frequently the minority of cases that are most important. (Such as it is uncommon for someone to get hurt and needs to be rushed to the emergency room -- stoplights be damned.) Lawmakers should get a clue too. Everytime they pass a bill to fund their latest piece of pork, they have no conception that while it may not cause dire consequences for the population at large, it will surely cause dire consequences for some.

Air Conditioning (1)

yawn9 (848734) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314604)

What if it's hot outside and my air conditioner is running? Bad idea. Force the transmission into park if you really want something like this implemented.

Re:Air Conditioning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32314718)

Being in Florida I can say this is simply not an option. Even a few minutes with the A/C off will be intolerable during the summer months. Never mind the wear-and-tear on an engine. Also think of Diesel engines in the cold. This seems like a silly idea.

How long until its hacked? (4, Insightful)

KDN (3283) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314606)

Anyone want to take bets on how long until the protocols gets hacked and spoofed?

  • Go to a freeway overpass and aim it at oncoming traffic and see how many cars come to a halt.
  • At a real intersection keep transmitting the "off" signal at a higher power output than the real transmitter keeping everyone stopped.
  • car jacking potential?
  • Will this stop police cars in hot pursuit?
  • Will this make cars unable to get out of the way of a police car at a stop light?
  • Programming bug prevents the traffic light from switching. We've all been at those lights that get stuck.

This should be a good thread on comp.risks.

Ambulance (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314690)

So, no getting out of the way of ambulances and fire trucks then? Do these vehicles have to constantly update the instructions for intersection engine control? What if they go off their planned route?

What a stupid patent, really. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 4 years ago | (#32314904)

This "invention" is completely redundant. Cars that were designed to shut their engine off when stopped (start-stop-automatic) won't need additional hints from stupid traffic signals, and all other cars won't support it.

Sorry IBM, you just reinvented the square wheel. Sucks to have paid all those patent fees.

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