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Avoiding Red Lights By Booking Ahead

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the might-get-bumped-if-they-overbook dept.

The Internet 299

RedEaredSlider writes "Peter Stone, associate professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, has presented an idea at the AAAS meeting today for managing intersections: a computer in a car calls ahead to the nearest intersection it is headed towards, and says it will arrive at a given time. The intersection checks to see if anyone else is arriving then, and if the slot is open, it tells the car to proceed. If it isn't, it tells the car that the car remains responsible for slowing down or stopping. He says that even with only a few connected cars, the system still works, even if the benefits are still only to those who have the connected vehicles."

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What happens when people change their minds.. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39088847)

...before arriving at the light? How far ahead are they "booking" a slot? How long until the slot becomes available if the car with the reservation isn't going to arrive. This really only sounds useful in more rural areas. I can't see a city with lights on every block being able to implement this technology with any kind of efficiency.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (4, Interesting)

kermyt (99494) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088871)

sure during peak hours this in not great for urban traffic but off peak times it would still be very feasible. It's about time Traffic and traffic control started communicating in a smart way. This sort of tech is all precursor to auto drive cars.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089167)

Most of the traffic happens at peak times though, by definition. I doubt the one-car-in-an-intersection case is common and costly enough for this to be economic.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089569)

This is a first generation idea, the obvious next step is "Hi, I have a wave of cars with me, we will be there in 3 minutes, you have an intermittent flow of cross traffic, please create a gap for this wave." True, not much can be done for bumper-to-bumper traffic once it exists, but properly timed lights can help. One issue though is that a timing for "free-flow" at the speed limit will require previously stopped drivers to speed to the first light. This could easily inform a light when the next "big wave" will reach it. Whether adjustments on this short a time scale are possible is an open question, but midsize urban areas could make big use of this.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (0, Offtopic)

macraig (621737) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088895)

I dropped by to voice the same concern but you beat me to it. What indeed happens when one of the other monitored cars has an impulsive driver who decides in the last few seconds before the intersection to floor the accelerator?

Sorry... FAIL. This system will ONLY work if we remove humans as a variable in the equation.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088975)

I dropped by to voice the same concern but you beat me to it. What indeed happens when one of the other monitored cars has an impulsive driver who decides in the last few seconds before the intersection to floor the accelerator?

Traffic lights would still operate, and traffic rules would still apply. What would happen in your case: If the driver goes at constant speed, the traffic light changes at exactly the right time to let him through. If the driver accelerates, the traffic light doesn't change to green in time, so he has to break. Or get a red light ticket.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089041)

I dropped by to voice the same concern but you beat me to it. What indeed happens when one of the other monitored cars has an impulsive driver who decides in the last few seconds before the intersection to floor the accelerator?

Sorry... FAIL. This system will ONLY work if we remove humans as a variable in the equation.

How is is any different than what happens now? Right now, when when a driver faces a red light and decides to floor the accelerator, hopefully he'll get a redlight ticket, but if another car is legally in the intersection he'll t-bone that driver. Many cities already have synchronized lights to give drivers following the speed limit a green light by the time they get to the next intersection. This system just changes the synchronization to individual cars.

If drivers obey the red lights (just as they are required to now), the system doesn't fall apart if a driver changes his mind at the last minute and turns into a parking lot before he reaches the intersection - worst case, his direction will have a "wasted" green cycle, and some opposing traffic might get a red they wouldn't have otherwise had.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089223)

This is yet another example of a solution looking for a problem. You don't need transponders calling ahead.

London has had, since almost forever, a system composed of cameras and humans. When the humans observe congestion they frig the timing on the lights to favour those moving out of it and hinder those moving in.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (2)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089321)

London has had, since almost forever, a system composed of cameras and humans.

Yes and with this you don't need either, which saves money and allows you to extend the system to areas that aren't as dense as London.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089113)

He "broke" his reservation when he floored it. I would guess at a set speed, the reservation would be set for example - 13:45:01". When he stepped on the accelerator, he got to the light at 13:44:56. Therefore, he (and the software) would need to realize that the reservation is not in effect yet and take the appropriate action.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (5, Insightful)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089499)

Sorry... FAIL. This system will ONLY work if we remove humans as a variable in the equation.

Seriously? FAIL? You find one particular scenario where it would provide optimal performance and somehow this means the system has failed? So what is your solution then? Do not implement a system that would make traffic flow better in 90% of cases just because the 10% would not be improved?

<RANT>
It is a curious reaction that we often see on /. on stories about inventions. People either dismiss it because of one edge case (like now), or they will say that they personally do not need the technology so it should not be implemented. Myself, I use public transport more often than I drive but that doesn't mean that I think we should not improve traffic flow for cars. To do so would be amazingly self-centered.
</RANT>

As to your particular concern, we are in the process of removing humans as a variable. Even ignoring the work being done on auto-driving cars, how many cars do you see with navigation systems in them these days. Sure, you don't input your destination into these every time if you know where you are going, but would you do so if it meant that you were more likely to get a dream run of green traffic lights?

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

mjjochen (638603) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088935)

...This really only sounds useful in more rural areas.

Your post, Sir, assumes that we people in rural areas actually obey traffic signals. Especially during non-peak hours (I've never observed vehicles blowing red lights @ 3 a.m. down my street).

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089023)

Your post, Sir, assumes that we people in rural areas actually obey traffic signals. Especially during non-peak hours (I've never observed vehicles blowing red lights @ 3 a.m. down my street).

With this design on a low traffic road, there should be just two possibilities: 1. You arrive at the traffic light, and the traffic light is green and no traffic from the other sides. 2. You arrive at the traffic light, the traffic light is red, and there _is_ traffic from the other sides. In other words, the light is very rarely red, but if it is red, then you absolutely _must_ stop or there will be an accident.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089185)

In a low traffic environment it would likely be easier for the 'side' street to have a trigger that tells the light to go to green if there isn't traffic in the 'main' street. Just like we have now (mostly). The only advantage this system would give you is the ability to tell the light to go green earlier, thus letting the side street vehicle go without having to stop, saving some fuel and some time.

At the expense of safety - making the side street vehicle stop even briefly before going green allows the driver to look for the drunken madman barreling down the road.

I'll take the safer route, thanks.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089257)

but the trigger usually requires you to stop at the light. Also you seem to forget that rural lights at night can have a several minute wait on the "low-priority" side

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (2)

HeLLFiRe1151 (743468) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089073)

I doubt this would have any effect driving during rush hour. However, I know I hate sitting at a red light @ 3 a.m. because some city worker decided that some other direction needs 10 minutes of green light.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (2)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089157)

If this could even slightly help the problem of just sitting at red lights when there's no other traffic around, I'm all for it. I absolutely loathe the "dumb, mindless" traffic signals that plague our streets. I waste entirely too much time (and gas) just sitting at red lights when there's no other traffic around. And, no, I don't live in a rural area.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089271)

Where I live, traffic lights have sensors. When your car passes over the sensor, the light will turn green. Some lights only have one sensor at the stop-line, so you have to stop-go, stop-go. Other lights have a sensor further out, so you can keep your speed. More sophisticated sets of sensors and car-counters also exist, depending on where you are, and the busyness, size, and shape of the intersection

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089515)

Some do here, but a lot of the older intersections are just setup on timers. It doesn't matter if there are 10 cars waiting to go on one side and none on the other. You still have to wait the 3-4 minutes for the lights to cycle.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089621)

I also am used to loops in the road as traffic sensors.
And I laugh every time i see some idiot stopped 1 or 2 car lengths back from the stop line, way back from the sensor loop wondering why the lights don't change for them.

I still wonder what is their reasoning for stopping so far back, but I don't think reason has anything to do with it ............

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (2)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089627)

I've lived in suburbia with all new streets and traffic lights, and, yes, those are great. What a godsend. However, I bet most inner-city traffic lights were probably built at least 30 or more years ago, and a lot of those were built on timers. And, of course, with the lack of transportation infrastructure upgrades, these lights still have the exact same technology that they had when they were built. This is just another example of our crumbling, outdated roadways.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089329)

What kind of non-rural area do you live in where there's no traffic? Even at 4 a.m. there's some cars moving around.

Plus, don't most lights go to flashing yellow (= 4 way stop) at off-peak times?

But the simplest solution is some kind of directional light sensor that picks up headlights of approaching vehicles.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (2)

todrules (882424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089553)

What kind of non-rural area do you live in where there's no traffic?

North Atlanta, and, yes, there are side streets where there's only traffic in rush hour but pretty dead on the off-times. And, of course, because of the spike in traffic, there needs to be traffic lights. Unfortunately, they were built decades ago and not improved upon since then, so most are just on timers, which means that you just sit there until the light cycles.

Plus, don't most lights go to flashing yellow (= 4 way stop) at off-peak times?

Not the light right where I live. It never goes to flashing yellow. I typically spend 2-3 minutes at that light to turn left anytime I decide to go out, no matter the time or the traffic.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

Script_God (803563) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089599)

> Plus, don't most lights go to flashing yellow (= 4 way stop) at off-peak times?

Traffic lights on side streets, or business intersections, perhaps. But not all lights. And it'd be flashing red if it'd be a 4-way stop. Most of the ones I see do flashing red to the smaller road and flashing yellow to the through road.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089611)

Flashing yellow = caution, not stop, at least in the US. Flashing red = stop. As to "no traffic" it means very light, i.e. traffic is not much of a barrier to your movement - you can observe and turn left with little effort from an intersection vs. daytime where you need to wait a bit for a gap or wait for a light to change.

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089651)

Flashing RED is a four way stop. Flashing yellow just means "pay attention to this intersection as you move through it." Please don't tell me you stop at flashing yellow lights...

Re:What happens when people change their minds.. (1)

s0nicfreak (615390) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089343)

Changes their mind about wanting the light to be green? What?? I suppose they could still stop, even if the light is green.

Sign me up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39088859)

It sounds good to me.

Roundabouts (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39088881)

Or you could just go with the simple solution and use roundabouts.

Re:Roundabouts (4, Funny)

topham (32406) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088905)

Tell that to the people in my neighbourhood who don't have a clue how to deal with a roundabout.

Re:Roundabouts (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089213)

Scary, isn't it. We had a roundabout put in one of our major intersections about a year ago (to much wailing and rending of garments). Perhaps 90% of drivers picked it up in the first few weeks. The other 10%, well, all I can say it's a shame that speeds are so low that we'll never get rid of them via traffic accidents. We just have to find some better way.

Nobody really liked my idea of putting forks in some power outlets to see who would pull them out.

Re:Roundabouts (0)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089401)

Nobody really liked my idea of putting forks in some power outlets to see who would pull them out.

My wife had sex with that fork. You son of a bitch home wrecker...

Re:Roundabouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089341)

We have one where I live. It's known locally as "suicide circle". I think it has something do with how rare it is for anyone to use their indicators. You never really know for sure if a car in the circle is going to exit while you enter, so you just guess based on perceived speed of an oncoming vehicle or you'll sit there waiting to enter all day. Meanwhile someone behind you is on their horn, because it's not their ass on the line if you enter at the wrong time. Also, nobody understands the concept of inside and outside lanes, or allow anyone from an inside lane to exit across an outside lane... a fundamental flaw in roundabouts.

Re:Roundabouts (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088943)

Or you could just go with the simple solution and use roundabouts.

The simple solution isn't that simple when you take the time to actually look at a map sometime. (Go ahead, try it, we will wait...) [google.com]

Rebuilding every intersection that has stoplights to have roundabouts doesn't work, and can't be afforded, even in those countries where roundabouts are common. Oh, wait, that would be NOWHERE. Even in the EU where everyone sings the praises of Roundabouts they are RARE.

Re:Roundabouts (1)

andre.david (1373517) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089025)

[...] those countries where roundabouts are common. Oh, wait, that would be NOWHERE. Even in the EU where everyone sings the praises of Roundabouts they are RARE.

Though I agree that roundabout-ifying the US is not feasible, your last statement is plainly WRONG: off the top of my counting, I see at least 12 in http://g.co/maps/cnqxz [g.co] and http://g.co/maps/hd9jk [g.co] .

Re:Roundabouts (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089219)

Now go to street view. I bet you can count 200 signaled stop lights in those same maps.
Lets face it. Traffic circles are only used in a tiny percentage of all intersections,

Re:Roundabouts (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089461)

You're just making it even more obvious you don't know what you're talking about. Traffic circles are not the same thing as roundabouts.

Re:Roundabouts (1)

Lunar_Lamp (976812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089039)

Roundabouts are rare in the EU are they? They're all over the place here in the UK...

Re:Roundabouts (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089115)

Compared to Stop Signaled intersections? Check your facts.

Re:Roundabouts (1)

Lunar_Lamp (976812) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089205)

You just stated that roundabouts are rare in the UK. I didn't say anything about the relative numbers to "stop signaled" intersections.

Re:Roundabouts (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089323)

What's a stop signal? A traffic light or a metal sign?

Either way, not as numerous as "stop signals" is not the same thing as rare. In a UK city there will be hundreds of roundabouts.

Re:Roundabouts (1)

Faluzeer (583626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089573)

What's a stop signal? A traffic light or a metal sign?

Either way, not as numerous as "stop signals" is not the same thing as rare. In a UK city there will be hundreds of roundabouts.

Hmmm

It depends on the size of the city, though it should be noted that we also have Roundabouts with Traffic Lights that control entry and exit from them...

Re:Roundabouts (1)

frenchbedroom (936100) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089191)

Even in the EU where everyone sings the praises of Roundabouts they are RARE.

Half of all the roundabouts in the world are in France.

Re:Roundabouts (2)

Nimey (114278) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089657)

People gripe about how hard roundabouts are to use, and I don't see it at all. Maybe it helps that the local ones were laid out intelligently so there's obviously only one way to go in - the entrances are canted to the right so that even the biggest idiot doesn't try to enter to the left.

It was a rare bit of sanity from MoDOT.

Already implemented here (4, Insightful)

jayveekay (735967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088883)

There are induction loops (metal dectors) buried in the pavement that tell the traffic lights about approaching cars. When my car passes over the loop it is telling the traffic signal at the intersection that I will be arriving within 10 seconds. If there is no cross traffic the light tells me to proceed by changing to green (or remaining green).

Re:Already implemented here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39088963)

This.

Also, network the detectors too so they know which roads are busy and when, and can give more green to the loaded roads.
Because apparently, the direction of rush-hour traffic seems to be beyond the realm of comprehension for city planners.
Hopefully, an automated system could do a better job - hell, random would probably be better than the lights on a particular stretch of road I have to deal with daily.

Re:Already implemented here (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088965)

Yeah, that works at like 3% of intersections in most big cities. The older the city, the less likely it is that you will find this. They may have the loops, but that doesn't always mean they will alter the clock for you. I've sat on loops with ZERO traffic coming from any direction and had the signals march thru their normal pattern. In many places the loops actually do nothing.

Re:Already implemented here (2)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089253)

Oh, they do something... just not at the time of day that you're driving. Try driving at three or four in the morning some time, and you'll see just how well those sensors work.

What this professor proposes is basically a massively scaled-down version of what I've been proposing for years. Unfortunately, that scaled-down nature of the proposal makes it a lot less useful in practice. To do traffic optimization well, you really need automated vehicles so that people register their destinations with a central system that can optimize which roads each vehicle takes, optimize which lanes go in which direction, and optimize when vehicles should pass through intersections to minimize stopping. The more information you have, the easier it is to make such decisions. More to the point, by knowing the entire route (rather than just one or two intersections ahead), you can do a much better job of optimization.

For example, if you know that a vehicle passes through three traffic lights in a short period of time, you may find that by making the vehicle stop at the first light rather than the second light (or vice-versa), you shift its arrival at the third light enough so that a vehicle does not have to stop that otherwise would have stopped, resulting in an overall efficiency gain.

Eventually, when nearly all cars have been converted to automatic drivers, you could leave the traffic lights in place, with all directions red by default, turning green only when a legacy manual vehicle approaches. Until then, however, having ten or twenty seconds of advance warning won't really help all that much. As others have said, we already have road sensors for this. If the lights are configured to not use the road loops, the operators are sure as heck not going to upgrade the lights to use a transponder-based system that gives them even more inputs to ignore.

Re:Already implemented here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089505)

"Oh, they do something... just not at the time of day that you're driving. Try driving at three or four in the morning some time, and you'll see just how well those sensors work."

In fact, the capacitance sensors in my city streets will "see" me coming around midnight, and if I slow to just the right speed I can make a left turn without braking, every single time - unless some cross traffic arrives first, and steals my focus.

Re:Already implemented here (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089605)

The problem's not that the loops aren't used, it's that the lights were designed with specific restrictions in addition to the induction loops.

One of the intersections I pass through twice every day is an excellent example: it's a T-junction with the top of the T being a big boulevard whereas the vertical line is just a side-street. The lights are programmed so that they will only switch for the vertical when there's somebody waiting there. However, in addition to this, the lights also have an integrated timer which stops the lights from switching too soon after they've already switched, and said timer is fairly long.

The end result is that unless you're the first person to pass there in a while, the induction loops might as well not be there. As a bonus, the timing is often so bad that it makes the horizontal go red just as traffic starts coming...

Re:Already implemented here (2)

MicroSlut (2478760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089001)

Where do you see these 10 seconds ahead of an intersection? I only see them at the intersection. If these where put further away a simple computer would be able to evaluate the quantity of traffic in every direction and change the signal accordingly. As I see it now, I must pull up and stop at an intersection before I am detected.

Re:Already implemented here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089279)

+1

Re:Already implemented here (3, Informative)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089333)

And they often don't detect motorcycles so you stand at a red light for a few minutes without crosstraffic until you decide to go ahead against the red light.

Re:Already implemented here (1)

DaleCooper82 (860396) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089463)

Yeah, we have the same as well. With a minor upgrade recently that checks your speed and if you driving over speed limit it puts there red light right in front of you. Great for ecology, traffic fluence, safety... you name it!

Mind you, speed limit is enforced with no tolerance so even at 3AM driving 2 km/h over limit assures red light. Is rather bullying us then helping.

Re:Already implemented here (1)

denzo (113290) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089659)

With a minor upgrade recently that checks your speed and if you driving over speed limit it puts there red light right in front of you. Great for ecology, traffic fluence, safety... you name it!

Certainly they aren't doing this for the environment. Stopped, idling vehicles generate more pollution in cities than moving vehicles. Sounds like a municipality that has nothing better to do with its time than to annoy some of their civilians.

I've been doing this for years (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088885)

Any time you are driving on surface streets (hate that term), you soon learn to "drive the stop-lights" by looking ahead a block or two. Its
not that hard, and even when you can't see the lights driving just about the speed limit will be close enough to get you 5 greens out of 6 tries.

That being said, anything that can guarantee more greens is welcome, but putting it in cars seems the wrong approach. If the stop lights just
talked to each other you would have enough info. When Stoplight A can't clear its queue in the allotted green, you can pretty much bet stoplight B won't be able to do so when that slug of cars reaches it.

In most cases the problem is dumb signals, hold overs from the Pleistocene, with no attempt to make traffic efficient.

Re:I've been doing this for years (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089087)

In most cases the problem is dumb signals

Completely agree with this point. In Maine, our signals use to be perfect (roads always need work because of water freezing under them and leaving pot-holes) - but the signals have always seemed perfectly coded, until Obama's rebuild america crap. They hired the cheapest contractors, swapped contractors, and so many fucking contractors to swap out all our fucking lights (never-mind the roads - we already have year-round crews on those and it won't change because of the weather here) - now stop lights at 4-way 45MPH intersections have a yellow light that lasts under 1 second - yesterday I saw a cop car run into a car with veteran plates and a handicapped sticker because HE got caught by the lights (he didn't have lights or siren on, was just driving) - whether it is a fucked up new way to generate taxes or just incompetence is beyond me, but rejuvenating the economy by giving the mentally impaired jobs is an idea only the mental midgets in Washington could come up with. I'm voting Ron Paul and anyone that doesn't deserves what they get from an overbearing incompetent government overstepping it's bounds.

Re:I've been doing this for years (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089425)

Lol, blame obama. It is hilarious how every redneck state wants to 'blame Obama' for incompetence at a local level.

Re:I've been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089447)

It's dumb drivers in my neighborhood. They merrily drive at 10mph under the speed limit (in perfect conditions) down the stretch (next to each other in both lanes) and then when they can see the green light ahead they slow down further and never make it.

In the rare instance where one of them actually makes it to the light, it turns yellow and they slam on their brakes even when the safer course of action is to continue through. I witnessed an accident where a guy slammed on his brakes for the yellow and the lady behind him (who was also following too closely, which they love to do) pushed him into the intersection. The very next day I saw him do it again. This time the person following too closely wasn't driving an SUV though, so was able to stop a little sooner.

If any of these idiots would just drive the speed limit they'd not only make that green, but the next two too.

I really don't think this "booking ahead" feature would help, because as I said, these guys slow down like they WANT to stop.

Re:I've been doing this for years (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089623)

You're assuming traffic lights are designed with fluidity in mind. Unfortunately many cities seem to design them with inefficiency in mind, going as far as to make sure that lights are always negations of the previous one so that you continuously have to start and stop -- supposedly to "slow traffic down".

Car? (4, Insightful)

stms (1132653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088891)

Why not just use smart phones it'd be just as simple to attach the correct sensor or it may be able to use the gps most of them already have.

Re:Car? (1)

exploder (196936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089239)

I don't think the smartphone exists that has both a GPS reliable enough for this and a battery that allows it to be on all the time. I will buy that phone when it does exist.

Re:Car? (1)

stms (1132653) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089359)

I wasn't sure if the GPS was reliable enough thats why I used the word "may". You could simply plug it into a car charger for the battery issue.

remains responsible?? (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088951)

What does that mean under the law that if the light tells that car it will get a green what if some thing happens who is responsible then?

What about red light crammers let's say the car hits the light right on green or just before it and camera goes off who is responsible for the ticket?

What about people makeing left turns who are waiting for traffic to clear (as under the law in most areas) you want right to enter and wait even if you need to make the trun when the light is red and the other side may get a green as you are makeing your trun..

Re:remains responsible?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39088985)

If the intersection is free and accepts the request from the car, the lights will have switched by the time the car arrives (unless it is seriously speeding, in which case they deserve the ticket).

Yes! (2)

ichthus (72442) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088953)

Yes! It is the year 2012, and our traffic lights are still running on timers. They're stupid, they waste time and fuel needlessly... they need to go. We have computers that can understand the spoken word, read the written word, and do whatever the hell it is that Kinect does. Our traffic semaphores should be far more intelligent than they are. I think I'd prefer something more along the lines of computer vision than and RF announcement -- for privacy reasons, but at least there's technology in the works.

Re:Yes! (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39088977)

Yes! It is the year 2012, and our traffic lights are still running on timers. They're stupid, they waste time and fuel needlessly... they need to go. We have computers that can understand the spoken word, read the written word, and do whatever the hell it is that Kinect does. Our traffic semaphores should be far more intelligent than they are. I think I'd prefer something more along the lines of computer vision than and RF announcement -- for privacy reasons, but at least there's technology in the works.

Or, as someone suggested up above, you could just rip them out and install roundabouts.

Re:Yes! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089197)

Or, as someone suggested up above, you could just rip them out and install roundabouts.

Ah yes, "just" rip out a working system for something inefficient at the best of times. Why aren't you in government, calling the shots?

Re:Yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089315)

For the most part, yes... infrastructure is outdated. But many urban areas, like Chicago, have sensors to prioritize light changing.

Here in the cattle country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39088987)

In Abilene, TX, we would just like to see main avenue lights change back to green once cars are off the detector wire on cross streets. But once someone trips a cross street light, it wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, until a timer decides that we have waited long enough. Count your blessings, Austin.

Questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39088995)

A few questions:
1) What if the person slows down or speeds up (or some one/thing gets in their way)? Seems this system is hackable by a person with a transmitter standing near the lights and continously repeats that a car is coming.
2) How does the system take into account people needing to cross? Will it tell the cars oops, now you have to stop in a short distance. It doesn't look like the lights push out data.
3) How does the system take into account emergency vehicles (and some buses too)? Same as #3
4) How much are they going to start charging for each message exchange with the intersection after everyone has the tech? (see deployment for ATMs as an example)
5) Why can the system fully fail? The intersection should just drop back to normal light operations if something goes wrong.

They claim this makes intersections safer. I don't see how unless everyone was using it and the roads were closed environments. Say you're traveling along without the tech and you're coming to a light. You've been watching and know you'll arrive when it's still green. However, someone else on the other road zooms in and the lights change because it doesn't see you coming. Now you've got an unexpected and short stopping distance and the other person isn't paying attention because the car said it was all clear.

Benefits to connected vehicles? Sure. (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089019)

But it would seem like the unconnected vehicles - which would probably be the vast majority of traffic around these lights - would be impacted adversely. It's not as if it's a situation where connected vehicles benefit while the impact to others is neutral.

This just seems like another concept designed to benefit a privileged few at the expense of the unwashed masses.

A step down from other proposals? (1)

harlequinn (909271) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089033)

From memory, this proposal is not nearly as comprehensive as the totally network aware models that have been proposed in the past, with all traffic flow managed by computers.

Fails if many people do it. (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089067)

This is one of those ideas that only works if few people do it. Like not getting kids vaccinated. Or super-couponing to get $300 of groceries for $10.

Misunderstood headline (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089077)

I thought it meant if the light turns yellow, you book it(speed up) so you avoid the red light!

Re:Misunderstood headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089287)

In the UK red lights are a sign of a prostitute so I was surprised when I read the summary.

erm... will they be cheaper than timers? (1)

LesFerg (452838) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089103)

Look around, cities, states, countries can barely afford to repair their roads. We are lucky to get timer based traffic lights here, the cheaper option is ridiculous round-abouts where the main flow at peak commuter times makes it nearly impossible to travel in the opposite direction.
Traffic lights with sensible and convenient functionality? Sounds like 50's style sci fi visions of the year 2000. How many of those early authors predicted that we wouldn't even be able to do proper repairs on our major highways by now? The New Zealand answer is to reduce the speed limit to suit the unsafe roads.
And its not just poor little islands like NZ, there were reports just last year about certain states in the US not being able to fund road repairs and considering tearing up their hard-top to go back to cheaper loose gravel surfaces for anything that wasn't a main inter-state roadway.
Sure, we SHOULD be able to make clever futuristic technilogical enhancements to our civil infrastructure, but it won't happen unless it can be done cheaper than the current systems, which I don't see happening.

Completely uncontrolled intersections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089105)

Anyone remember the article (don't remember if it was Slashdot or elsewhere) some years back about a proposal for having lightless intersections and cars being smart enough to speed up or slow down so that they miss each other when passing thru? It had a Java simulation that showed what it would look like from above and it was amazing to watch. There was an intersection and this big horde of little lines representing cars approaching at high speed and passing thru it from all directions simultaneously. I'd love to find that again if anyone has a link.

and are you going to build overpass sidewalks? (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089273)

and are you going to build overpass sidewalks? so you can cross on foot?

Now las Vegas has some pedestrian overpass but I don't see other citys lineing up build more like them.

Pointless (1)

pillbug88 (2560957) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089125)

All these wonderful innovations in self-driving cars is pointless. The first time it gets hacked will be the last time it's used. If you saw the newer version of BSG, that future is far more likely than the one google envisions.

A possible improvement (4, Insightful)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089149)

If the light doesn't have a slot knows there will be one available just a bit later, the light can signal the car to coast down from 45MPH to 35MPH, arriving just a bit later. By doing so it reduces the energy lost into the brakes and the car ends up coasting through the intersection on the green light instead of stopping and then having to restart just a few seconds later.

You can do this manually by paying attention to what's going on in the next several stoplights. It saves gas and brake wear. It's kind of nice just cruising along and hitting all the lights. Getting feedback from the light would make it much more effective.

Unfortunately it also drives some drivers crazy. They can't stand it that I'm going 35MPH in a 45MPH zone and go racing past... Just to end up stopped at a stoplight which then turns green a few seconds later and I go drifting on past. And still they don't get it.

Re:A possible improvement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089345)

Unfortunately it also drives some drivers crazy. They can't stand it that I'm going 35MPH in a 45MPH zone and go racing past... Just to end up stopped at a stoplight which then turns green a few seconds later and I go drifting on past. And still they don't get it.

If you're lucky you go past. Back when I drove a car, those assholes would frequently cut into my lane just before the light, so they could be first off the line. When I was having an especially bad day, I would sometimes drop my speed a little, and hold off braking till the last second, so I would arrive practically on their bumper just as it turned green, and lay on the horn as I rolled up. It was a really bad idea, obviously, but it cracked me up when I'd get some twat in a RWD to panic and fishtail all over trying to get out of my way. (Man, teenager me should never have been allowed on the road..)

Re:A possible improvement (2)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089363)

Sometimes you have two of those morons and one changes into your lane, forcing you to stop. Happens to me all the time.

From the Hard Boiled comic book (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089173)

We will soon have a voice telling us Collision imminent

Could help encourage multiple services (2)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089177)

By coming up with a system to retro-fit into current cars, that would add not just intersection negotiation, but show speed limits (which COULD then vary depending on conditions, time of day, etc), give info about traffic, etc. The advantage of this, is that doing simple speed limits will not entire too many. HOWEVER, the ability to continue through an intersection, combined with getting other info, would actually encourage ppl to buy this system. Another advantage of this, is that it can provide information back to the police, etc: cars are moving, but stopped at one intersection. Why is that? Becomes a reason to divert a squad assuming that one is close and not busy.

Traffic lights and city design awful, more at 11. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089215)

And it is such a huge fault of poor city design.
Yeah, sure, it's fine if you were a town built in 1800s, but not a modern city!

One day we might actually have a semi-3D city.
Is it SO hard to build walkways above roads?!
It doesn't even need to be full-on cement walkways above roads. Simple metal frames across the sides of buildings, slabs, DONE.
Just think, with no need for walkways below, you can now crush buildings even closer together! MORE SPACE! GENIUS!
Anyone building a city? I'll design it for you, for free, and even help you build it. Sick of backwards-ass thinking.

Why hasn't the 3D cities era happened yet? It has considerably more benefits than it does negatives, most importantly that space is used more efficiently, less slabs and cement waste due to a standard metal frame walkway around buildings.
Designate main roads for any large-scale vehicles so that the crossing walkways can be brought up like your typical bridge over waters.

And before anyone says it, how often to buildings really get taken down? (either by council, government, or hell, even terrorists)
There is really no difference, the same things will happen really. Area blocked off, (controlled) explosion, clean-up.
The only bad part is that weird, esoteric building designs would be a little harder to fit in to these frames. Admittedly only at the bottom though, anywhere above the walkway frame is completely fine. Most buildings are pretty standard at the bases as it is, maybe different bricks or slabs of granite or whatever.

I hate architects sometimes. Glad I never got in to it, I'd have offed myself by now.
Still, at least it isn't as bad as the other end, all looks and no function is so much worse!
I saw an area around a beach absolutely wrecked by an abomination of a design from some architects wet dream.
It went from:
a neat hill, perfectly functional steps, some seats and a little area where rides were for kids, your usual things like teacups, mouse ride, etc. some food stand, toilets for all the kids near the beach.
to
a murderous, eyesore of a hill with rocky stone that seriously looks like it came out of one of those terrible tessellation demos.
That thing isn't just an eyesore, it was literally a danger to people. Why the hell that even got the green light is beyond me. As a person who used to do acrobatics, even I nearly slipped on the damn thing going up it!
Square wheels on stone pebbles comes to mind.

Why not roundabouts? (1)

Lose (1901896) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089231)

I wish these were implemented more often in the U.S. I prefer them over traffic lights as they permit a constant flow of traffic and if there is ever a collision, it won't be one driver running a red and broadsiding another vehicle at speed limit (or faster), but more likely a low speed collision which would be safer for everybody involved.

I think the only things prohibiting widespread popularity in the United States is their perceived complexity, people who don't understand when it is and isn't appropriate to yield before entering a roundabout (or people who yield so people can enter the roundabout when they aren't supposed to), and maybe the counter-clockwise rotation that roundabouts usually follow which feels a bit foreign at first. Nothing that couldn't be resolved with time, of course.

The Good Professor is Confused (3, Insightful)

RonVNX (55322) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089337)

Perhaps things are different in Texas, but where I live the majority of traffic lights and stop signs are installed for the express purpose of impeding the flow of traffic. Trying to sell them a sensible system to improve traffic flow, reduce pollution and ticketable offenses is the last thing they'd be interested in.

Re:The Good Professor is Confused (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089543)

Only if there is war on cars. We know that to be the case in San Fran. Downtown Austin is looking to emulate them through preferential treatment to cyclists.

It's fucking retarded. Try walking outside high noon in August in this city. Your face will melt off and your sneakers will turn into a puddle of gummy ooze.

in a city... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39089587)

um... what about a pedestrian half way when the light changes out of sequence.....

Or just use Timed Lights (1)

Killer Instinct (851436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39089631)

When I lived in Detroit, all the major roads had lights timed for the speed limit..so we could drive miles without a red light, once you got going "in" the cycle. so at most one red light and then all green. worked great! During peak rush hour you had to make sure you stayed in the pack, but at midnight, coming home from the airport or gentlemen clubs...it was smooth sailing. BTW lights timed for 45mph...are also timed for 90. -KI
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