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Traffic Light Control For The Masses

timothy posted about 11 years ago | from the steve-jobs-to-the-principal's-office dept.

Toys 824

uniformed1 writes "Eliminating red lights along the routes of their vehicles can give emergency response teams the few extra critical minutes that can save lives and property. A front page article in today's Detroit News details the emerging problem with a device that is now being made available to the public -- a traffic light changer. Originally intended only for emergency vehicles, the $300 MIRT (mobile infrared transmitter) emits an infrared beam that signals traffic signals to turn green and gives the vehicle the right-of-way. It is only a matter of time before self-centered drivers start using the devices widely to skirt traffic congestion, which is creating fears that chaos will ensue." Maybe if everyone had these, it would lead to smarter intersections.

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Plans? (1, Interesting)

evilmuffins (631482) | about 11 years ago | (#7315867)

It couldn't be to hard to hack together one of these could it?

Re:Plans? (-1, Offtopic)

fenix down (206580) | about 11 years ago | (#7315921)

1) Advertize that you're selling MIRTs
2) Collect money from "customers"
3) Move to Arizona with money
4) Buy a firetruck

first post hobags. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315868)

first fuckin post.

Re:first post hobags. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315907)

YOU FAIL IT # Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. # Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. # Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. # Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. # Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page)

No Encryption keys? (5, Insightful)

HermanAB (661181) | about 11 years ago | (#7315869)

What idiots make these things???

Re:No Encryption keys? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315904)

And how exactly would encryption prevent knockoffs, huh? It certainly never stopped people from copying DVDs.

Re:No Encryption keys? (4, Insightful)

shird (566377) | about 11 years ago | (#7315909)

that would require a challenge-response type system. Thus, it would have to be a transmitter and reciever with processor etc, rather than just blindly transmitting all the time.

A lot more difficult to develop, a lot less fault tolerant.

I guess it could just digitally sign todays date with a secret key and transmit that or something. However, eventually the key would be leaked or reverse engineered. Basically, if you are going to give the 'key' (the little box which does the transmitting) to anyone, then eventually that key will be figured out. No amount of encryption can avoid that. (Although tamperproof smart card type devices are a good start).

Re:No Encryption keys? (3, Insightful)

wfberg (24378) | about 11 years ago | (#7316011)

I guess it could just digitally sign todays date with a secret key and transmit that or something.

You've got the right idea!

However, eventually the key would be leaked or reverse engineered.

The fun thing about keys is, you can have as many keys as you have mirt boxes - one goes missing, you remove the key from the receivers.

Re:No Encryption keys? (1)

lgftsa (617184) | about 11 years ago | (#7316012)

Most traffic lights are wired to a central control system. They can be given a private key on a per day basis and the vehicle is given the public key. The command is entrypted with the public key before transmission.

Each intersection controller needs a firmware/hardware upgrade to do the crypto, the vehicles need a similar upgrade, and a mechanism of distributing the public key to the vehicles needs to be put in place.

Nothing too difficult, and of only moderate expense. The infrastructure for key distribution is already in place, except for someone walking a CF/USB disk from the vehicle dispatcher's PC to each vehicle every day.

Maybe with this (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315872)

Slashdotters could get laid.. since now everywhere can be the red light district!

Re:Maybe with this (0, Offtopic)

wdd1040 (640641) | about 11 years ago | (#7316031)

If COMMENT contains Slashdot*+laid then MODERATE +5 funny

radonica.com (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315877)

First post! woot! radonica.com forever!

I remember... (1)

SargeZT (609463) | about 11 years ago | (#7315879)

Years ago, there were instructions online on how to create one of these yourself. All you have to do was figure out the timing of your cities traffic lights. I'd never waste 300 dollars just to get through a traffic light 30 seconds faster.

Re:I remember... (2, Interesting)

digital bath (650895) | about 11 years ago | (#7315918)

Sure, but would you if everyone else had one and kept cutting your green light off? Would you be tempted then?

Magazine ads (1)

Orangedog_on_crack (544931) | about 11 years ago | (#7315885)

Haven't these things been advertized in the back of magazines for years?

Will yellow still mean gas it? (1)

nilepoc (7329) | about 11 years ago | (#7315886)

Wide spread caos is sure to ensue. At least when emergency vehicles do this, they are automatically responsible for all wrecks it causes. The civilian user will have no such responsibility, and will be very hard to catch. But satan help you if you are caught with one.

Re:Will yellow still mean gas it? (1)

cgranade (702534) | about 11 years ago | (#7315922)

From the parent post: But satan help you if you are caught with one.
From the article: Police are worried about the possibility of intersection chaos if people duel over control for lights. But even more fundamentally, the dashboard device may be impossible to detect even from a police car right next to it, and it may be perfectly legal anyway.
Hmm... it may be legal? Expect some interesting legal cases soon, folks.

Awww... (1)

winstarman (624536) | about 11 years ago | (#7315889)

Well, my town has 5 stoplights, so I'm probably safe. But I'd hate to still be living in DC :-P

Wait... that sounded a lot like "As long as the landfill isn't in MY backyard."

hmm.

R-

Re:Awww... (1)

C10H14N2 (640033) | about 11 years ago | (#7315949)

Oh right, I can really see this working wonders in DC. You'd have to fire it at 15 signals just to turn from Massachussetts to Connecticut Ave at Dupont Circle. Besides, no one here pays attention to red lights anyway, so who cares if you have a green light in the middle of a gridlocked intersection?

Re:Awww... (1)

winstarman (624536) | about 11 years ago | (#7315964)

True,

I guess I'm glad I don't live there anymore.

regardless.

Here's a link to a place that makes them... (5, Informative)

mikeylebeau (68519) | about 11 years ago | (#7315890)

www.themirt.com [themirt.com] has a lot of info on these devices. Even a dealer list of where to get one. Man, I'm tempted...

-mikey

Re:Here's a link to a place that makes them... (2, Informative)

insertionPoint (715729) | about 11 years ago | (#7315915)

Even a dealer list of where to get one. Man, I'm tempted...

Careful of local laws. Chicago crime bo...er mayor banned these early last year (which probably means that the Illinois gov. office sells them)

Re:Here's a link to a place that makes them... (1)

mikeylebeau (68519) | about 11 years ago | (#7315920)

Well, I don't think I'll actually ever get one. But that being said, I don't live in Chicago any more, I got the hell out of there and came back home, to Stanford. I should probably change my user info.

-mikey

go ahead. but remember... (0)

pahpabut (634183) | about 11 years ago | (#7315893)

"The problem with America is stupidity. I'm not saying there should be a capital punishment for stupidity, but why don't we just take the safety labels off of everything and let the problem solve itself?"

Change the Behavior (4, Interesting)

Dolohov (114209) | about 11 years ago | (#7315894)

One thing to do, then, would be to change the behavior of the traffic lights so that on receiving this signal, they go to four-way red. Since emergency vehicles can run red lights, it doesn't stop them, while simultaneously deterring civilians from using them.

(The trouble is the lack of feedback. You'd need some kind of indication that the other ways had gone to red before the ambulance driver will have confidence going through the intersection at full speed)

Re:Change the Behavior (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315914)

um... isn't the trouble that cars stopped at a red light are in the way? where are you from, farm country?

Re:Change the Behavior (1)

Dolohov (114209) | about 11 years ago | (#7315957)

Do you not pull to the side of the road when there's an ambulance coming up from behind you?

Re:Change the Behavior (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315968)

Yeah, like you can just change lanes in a city where every single lane of traffic is full for miles on end.

Re:Change the Behavior (1)

bluGill (862) | about 11 years ago | (#7315990)

Well, I do when I can. I'm minded of the time I was passing cars where there was no left shoulder, and the cars on the right were tailgating and not slowing down or moving over. I was left with no choice but to not pull over. (I don't drive a sports car, I floored it, but that doesn't give much speed. Eventially I got passed them and I pulled over as soon as it was safe)

Re:Change the Behavior (3, Insightful)

Yottabyte84 (217942) | about 11 years ago | (#7315962)

You drive on the left side of the road, around them.

Re:Change the Behavior (1)

nacturation (646836) | about 11 years ago | (#7315978)

You drive on the left side of the road, around them.

Except where the road is divided by a concrete median. Then you're screwed.

Re:Change the Behavior (1, Insightful)

Simple-Simmian (710342) | about 11 years ago | (#7315985)

Which is whyyou are supposed to move your stupid ass out of the way by moving across the interscetion when an ambulance, firetruck or police car is behind you with siren and lights if you are stopped at a red light. But most people just sit there like a deer in the headlights. A 4 way red would work if people knew what to do and did it. I think if you are found with one of these remotes they just shoot you right there. The lights and siren are there for a reason they are not going to get coffee. Some persons life is at stake. If you think you are so dammed important that you matter more you are not fit to breath.

Re:Change the Behavior (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7316055)

Which is whyyou are supposed to move your stupid ass out of the way by moving across the interscetion when an ambulance, firetruck or police car is behind you with siren and lights if you are stopped at a red light.

Haven't you ever been to a crowded city? The cars are sitting at the red lights packed solid, backed up half a block at least. Where are they supposed to go? I'm not going to pull into the middle of an intersection when I have a red light or the ambulance might as well stop right there and pick me up. Don't act like you know everything. Every situation is unique and tough to deal with. Applying some bullshit stock answer is just going to get people hurt.

Ambulance drivers don't go full speed (5, Insightful)

JohnQPublic (158027) | about 11 years ago | (#7315928)

The only time an ambulance driver goes full-speed through an intersection with the siren screaming and cars breaking left and right is in the movies. In real life, they slow down and approach the intersection with all the care appropriate to one who's about to violate the traffic pattern. Because, after all, it doesn't help the dying guy in the back if the ambulance gets in an accident on the way to the ER.

Re:Change the Behavior (2, Interesting)

sahrss (565657) | about 11 years ago | (#7315955)

Some people would then buy these things just because it would give them the power to annoy everyone else...

Kind of like trolls on /.

Re:Change the Behavior (1)

TekReggard (552826) | about 11 years ago | (#7315965)

They do this where I'm from, TACOMA WA, and it even happened today. The unusual problem of the system not re-setting itself also occured, so the intersection of 39 and bridgeport way was a 4 way stop for quite some time. This really backed up traffic there as its congested enough when running normally. If they could assure us these glitches would be gone I wouldn't mind that being the behavior of all lights when emergency vehicles approach.

Re:Change the Behavior (4, Interesting)

bluGill (862) | about 11 years ago | (#7315977)

All the lights I've seen have a light next to the recieving unit that indicates which direction has the right away. This was done after 2 emergency vechicals going different directions (or at least coming from different directions) crashed in the middle of the intersection because they assumed they had the right away.

Re:Change the Behavior (4, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 11 years ago | (#7315986)

In most cities, the light goes green for the guy with the transmitter, but a white strobe light on the same pole goes off too. If all lights went red, but the strobe still went off, the should be enough to make the driver confident that all directions are indeed red.

Re:Change the Behavior (5, Insightful)

Izago909 (637084) | about 11 years ago | (#7316017)

The lights in the direction of the emergency vehicle turn green so people can move out and away instead of blocking the intersection. I've seen people at regular 'dumb' intersections sit in front of a fire truck and block it because he thought he would get in trouble for running a red to let them through. Also, I'm not sure if it's lke this everywhere, but around here if something comes through such an intersection the light goes from green to red with no yellow warning at the exact same time the other direction gets the green. That sould defiately cause some chaos if ignorant drivers decide to get selfish.

One thing people always forget is that speeding and runing reds rarely gets you there faster. People who dodge and weave through rush hour highway traffic are a whole 2 or 3 cars in front of me when I get to the off ramp. I've learned the timing of lights around my office and home so now I can actually get there faster by driving just few miles under the limit. Usually it's the impatient people that create traffic in the first place. The more that people obey speed limits the better the timing of intersections gets.

Re:Change the Behavior (1)

TiMac (621390) | about 11 years ago | (#7316020)

Couple problems would emerge.

First, when the lights go red, traffic congests and it becomes harder for an emergency vehicle to get through because the traffic flow has stopped.

Secondly, for states that have a right-turn-on-red law, people would be able to go regardless of the light going red (they are supposed to look, but some people are stupid) so they couldn't be SURE people would not be there.

And, as others have pointed out, no emergency vehicles go blaring through red lights at top speed....

"Maybe if everyone had these, it would lead..." (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315895)

"Maybe if everyone had these, it would lead to smarter intersections."

Was that sarcasm or are you really that stupid?

Re:"Maybe if everyone had these, it would lead..." (4, Insightful)

Theatetus (521747) | about 11 years ago | (#7315959)

I think the idea was that mass dueling transmitters might be smarter than weight sensors or cameras. I see this, however, as a perfect case study for the Tragedy of the Commons.

beep beep (0)

mfivis (592345) | about 11 years ago | (#7315899)

That mother****** cut my beam off!

Easy solution... (5, Funny)

Realistic_Dragon (655151) | about 11 years ago | (#7315900)

IR guided Maverick anti tank missiles mounted on traffic light poles. Bet those suckers shut off their IR transmitter then!

I want one! (1)

FatSean (18753) | about 11 years ago | (#7315905)

You know there is no accounting for usage! And think of how many places are still installing them...got to get me one of these!

Once again, Slashdot trumps logic for technology . (2, Insightful)

Rotten168 (104565) | about 11 years ago | (#7315906)

Um, if everyone had one of these, wouldn't that be the same as when noone had these? How would it choose one holder over another? It probably wouldn't.

Re:Once again, Slashdot trumps logic for technolog (1)

bklock (632927) | about 11 years ago | (#7315933)

Well, if every car had one of these devices, the traffic lights could be programmed to switch intelligently based on the approaching traffic.

I hate late at night, when the lights green as no one is going through, and then just as a few cars get to the light it turns red even though there are no cars waiting to go the other way, and then when a car finally approaches, the light turns back. What a waste. Some lights have pressure sensors, but they only can tell if cars are currently waiting. Something that could tell the light when traffic was approaching, how far back it was and how heavy it was, we could have much better traffic lights.

Re:Once again, Slashdot trumps logic for technolog (2, Insightful)

gregfortune (313889) | about 11 years ago | (#7315939)

No, not at all. In fact, it would be much worse. The lights are supposed to be timed so a batch of cars can travel through most of the stoplights on a main street without having to stop if everyone is traveling the speed limit. Every car having one of these would mean that the lights would cycle on and off much more quickly meaning you would be stopping at every light in the city.

Re:Once again, Slashdot trumps logic for technolog (3, Funny)

cgranade (702534) | about 11 years ago | (#7315967)

Um... if it has a range of 1500 ft., people would activate it at 1500 ft, it would get trumped at 1499 ft, so they'd activate it at 1498 ft... you get the picture. In short, there'd be two people hurdling toward each other, hoping that the light would stay on their side.

Illegal? (3, Insightful)

marshac (580242) | about 11 years ago | (#7315912)

Why are these devices not illegal? Seems to me that the intersection should take a picture of the vehicle using the device... if there aren't flashing lights, send a ticket in the mail.

Once people know that they will be fined, they will stop using it. If you can't deal with red lights, then don't drive.... it's part of the agreement that we all agree to live by when driving (aka "the law"). These rules are there to make driving safer for everyone.

Illegal?-Tech for the selfish. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315927)

And this device is for the person who doesn't want to play by the rules. Just like radar detectors.

Re:Illegal?-Tech for the selfish. (1)

marshac (580242) | about 11 years ago | (#7315960)

I disagree. Radar detectors only affect one person really.... the driver (assuming they don't get into an accident). This device affects EVERYONE at the intersection. You're right though, it is for the selfish.... and when they are the ones laying on the floor dying of a heart attack because the EMT can't get there soon enough, they can only blame themselves.

Re:Illegal? (2, Insightful)

Pakaran2 (138209) | about 11 years ago | (#7315981)

It's legal for a very basic reason - there's no law against it.

Some radar jammers and such things are illegal because they break FCC rules against unlisensed broadcasts. You can't set a licensing requirement for an infrared transmitter - my hands are putting out infrared right now, as is the air coming out the back of my PC - and so you need a special-purpose law against these specific devices (or more likely their use by ordinary people).

Re:Illegal? (1)

zangdesign (462534) | about 11 years ago | (#7315988)

Oh, come now, your faith in humanity is horribly misplaced.

Why are these devices not illegal?
Just because something is illegal does not mean that it will stop anyone.

Once people know that they will be fined, they will stop using it.
Doesn't work for speeding, does it?

The cat is unfortunately out of the bag and it's trying to bite our heads off just like that performer in Las Vegas.

Re:Illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7316014)

Finally, an opening for a comment I've been wanting to post!


In Soviet Russia, I mean, Las Vegas, pussy eats you!

Re:Illegal? (1)

jason.hall (640247) | about 11 years ago | (#7316001)

From the sounds of it, it's not illegal because the FCC apparently doesn't have restrictions for broadcasting infrared, which the system uses (good thing, since things like headlights and tailpipes are major emitters). I guess the receivers are just looking for specific IR wavelengths. Yes, the devices are made to change the light, but a pedestrian pressing the button on the pole can trigger a cycle too, and that's not illegal.

Re:Illegal? (5, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | about 11 years ago | (#7316004)

Why are these devices not illegal? Seems to me that the intersection should take a picture of the vehicle using the device... if there aren't flashing lights, send a ticket in the mail.

The only problem there is how do you know which driver among the 20 approaching the intersection has the device? Sure, if you see someone with their arm out the window pointing a remote at the traffic light it's a no-brainer, but an IR transmitter peeking out of the front grill or behind some trinket on the dash would be impossible to make out.

Just make it some enourmous fine... $25000 per offense or some such figure when the device is used for a non-emergency purpose. That way, the devices themselves aren't illegal (though I agree that they probably should be) but the uses are. You could, conceivably, drive your wife to the hospital when she's about to give birth, but you couldn't use it just because you're late for work.

Re:Illegal? (5, Informative)

marshac (580242) | about 11 years ago | (#7316018)

your average CCD will detect IR. Don't believe me? Pull out your camcorder and aim a remote at the camcorder. It looks like white light. I know where I live, we have CCD DOT cams at almost every intersection. It would be easy to pick out the car emitting the bright flashes.

Re:Illegal? (1)

nacturation (646836) | about 11 years ago | (#7316039)

your average CCD will detect IR. Don't believe me? Pull out your camcorder and aim a remote at the camcorder. It looks like white light. I know where I live, we have CCD DOT cams at almost every intersection. It would be easy to pick out the car emitting the bright flashes.

Thanks, I wasn't aware of that. In that case, snap away! And charge them $25000 per offense. :)

Re:Illegal? (1)

Angry Toad (314562) | about 11 years ago | (#7316052)

Very cool. I just tried it, and it works. I had no idea.

Re:Illegal? (1)

LastAndroid (695190) | about 11 years ago | (#7316059)

Just make it some enourmous fine... $25000 per offense or some such figure when the device is used for a non-emergency purpose.

Or even better make it interfering with or impersonating goverment employees/property and have a fine and jail time.

Re:Illegal? (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | about 11 years ago | (#7316067)

Wait till a few people get sideswiped because some moron doesn't wait until the intersection is clear before tearing through it.

use it to enforce the law.. (-1)

fuckfuck101 (699067) | about 11 years ago | (#7315916)

when the lights mysteriously change green, simply click them back to red, and you got yourself a nice little thumb war.

I LIKE TO CHANT 'FUCKFUCK101' OVER AND OVER AGAIN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7316040)

Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal. Important Stuff: Please try to keep posts on topic. Try to reply to other people's comments instead of starting new threads. Read other people's messages before posting your own to avoid simply duplicating what has already been said. Use a clear subject that describes what your message is about. Offtopic, Inflammatory, Inappropriate, Illegal, or Offensive comments might be moderated. (You can read everything, even moderated posts, by adjusting your threshold on the User Preferences Page) Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal.
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Lame (3, Interesting)

Midnight Warrior (32619) | about 11 years ago | (#7315919)

The specs have been out on how to build these things for years. Never caught on, maybe because they felt like the whole beige/black/red/blue box phenomenon. MAYBE if they start showing up in places like Best Buy it will catch on, but even still, I doubt it. Besides, I asked some EMTs/the driver one time if the light at the intersections would benefit them by this light predetermination technology. They said no. Doesn't matter because people still run the yellow and red lights so they still have to slow down. And this was for a signal 100 ft. from the station driveway.

I concede that yes, it may help in congested downtown areas like LA or NY, but in 95% of the U.S. they either aren't installed or useful enough to justify their cost.

BTW, it's just a pre-canned, encoded signal on a fixed carrier wave over an infrared signal. Think "really powerful remote control" for you newbies.

frost pist (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315923)

frist psot

Obligatory Simpsons reference (4, Funny)

bartyboy (99076) | about 11 years ago | (#7315925)

Professor Frink: "We studied traffic patterns and found that drivers move the fastest through yellow lights, so now we just have the red and yellow lights, mm-haiai."

Lenny [flooring it]: "Stay yellow! Stay yellow!"

I remember these from driver's ed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315926)

Long ago (late 1980s), when I was was taking learn-to-drive classes, the textbook listed the fines you could get for different traffic offences.

Unauthorized use of a traffic light changing device was a serious offence. At the time, I thought, since it's illegal to use such a device, these devices must exist. I always wondered how these devices worked and how I could buy/borrow/steal/build one...

Re:I remember these from driver's ed... (1)

Mattcelt (454751) | about 11 years ago | (#7316013)

Yeah, but how are you going to get caught? Nearly any infrared emitter can be made swallowable-size or smaller, meaning that you could put one in your grill, rear-view mirror, visor, or whatever, and no one would be the wiser without a thorough inspection of your vehicle.

Without active monitoring (i.e., video recording)of the intersections at the times when the signals were changed with the IR device, there would be almost no way to link a user with such a device. It's completely clandestine.

Incidentally, in a town where I lived, the emergency vehicles simply used $10 strobe lights to do the same thing. They were highly visible, inexpensive, and easy to use. The wording of some of the statutes even prohibited their use by non-emergency vehicles without needing a change in the law. A less "advanced" solution, perhaps, but equally (if not more) effective in most circumstances.

Human Nature (0)

Haxx (314221) | about 11 years ago | (#7315929)

Once again humans proove that we are not worthy of the praise we give are self. The dollar society has failed again. The nuclear winter is imminent.

Simpsons reference (0, Redundant)

ejaw5 (570071) | about 11 years ago | (#7315932)

We studied the traffic patterns and found that drivers move the fastest through yellow lights. So now, we just have the red and yellow lights.

They ought to be banned (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315935)

Just like guns, these devices have no use in civilian hands. You don't have a right to change the traffic lights to suit yourself. There are no valid reasons for owning guns, (don't quote the second amendment, it's obsolete, don't tell me about self defense... if you are mugged, carjacked, or raped, well that's just too bad... and don't tell me about resisting "tyranny"... if you don't like the government then tough luck), and there sure as isn't any reason for regular people to own these devices. PERIOD.

Minneapolis/St. Paul (2, Interesting)

prabhath (620114) | about 11 years ago | (#7315938)

We've had these little devices on the streets of Minneapolis/St. Paul and the surrounding Metro areas for about 7 or so years now.. They're little sensors that (i believe) get activated by the lights on emergency vehicles.

If there's any justice... (1)

NickFusion (456530) | about 11 years ago | (#7315942)

The arseholes who use these will end up getting broadsided by motorists who aren't expecting the sudden light change, then bleed to death waiting for an ambulance to arrive, impeded by all the other grief players.

like these? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7315944)

Kind of reminds me of this article [1fineline.com]

Hehehe, evil (1)

TLouden (677335) | about 11 years ago | (#7315946)

two people, one for east/west, one for north/south. They keep changing back and forth and back and forth. Major traffic problem.

What happened to questioning security? (1)

todhsals (63522) | about 11 years ago | (#7315948)

The real problem is the brain dead "security through obscurity" mindset of the municipal administrators who allowed the receivers to be purchased with public money without demanding that the manufacturers build in a decent access control mechanism.

What happened to questioning security?-DRM Lights. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7316024)

If you've been paying attention every time DRM or RIAA/MPAA come up for discussion. There's no decent access control mechanism that can not be broken by someone who wants what you got. People brag about that fact. The security isn't obscure. It's more, security based on the honor system. The information on how it works is easily available.

Why "I" would never use one of these. (1, Insightful)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | about 11 years ago | (#7315970)

Sign in front of the driveway of firehouse in my old city
"Please do not block these doors, we may be going to you house"

Anyone who is using one of these to get through a red light should be lit on fire and left in the middle of the intersection. Lets see how long it takes the ambulance to get there navagaing the traffic gridlock these people cause.

Re:Why "I" would never use one of these. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7316025)

If you're going to quote someone/something, spellcheck before you fucking post you faggot.

Re:Why "I" would never use one of these. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#7316046)

Sign in front of the driveway of firehouse in my old city
"Please do not block these doors, we may be going to you house"


That would have driven me INSANE! Didn't anyone sneak over there in the middle of the night and paint a little "r" after the "you"?

Good idea maybe (0)

Moderator (189749) | about 11 years ago | (#7315974)

Maybe if everyone had these, it would lead to smarter intersections.

Traffic lights can be a pain sometimes. How many times have you been the only car stopped at a clear intersection, and the light didn't turn green until the light directing the other road had stopped someone? Being able to control the traffic light at an empty intersection would be nice. Maybe these things could be modified such they only work at certain times of the day when there is little or no traffic. 50 people simeultaniously trying to change the light would only cause havoc.

Easy enough to catch (4, Funny)

ArsonPanda (647069) | about 11 years ago | (#7315976)

1. There's an awfull lot of cameras at intersections these days. (and not just red light still cameras either, where I am there's a few vid cams at every major intersection).

2. IR shows up on B&W CCD cameras.

1+2 = just have someone watch vids for cars that have bright IR pulses coming from the dash.

3 ????

4. Profit

Chrome box (2, Informative)

Eiki (713952) | about 11 years ago | (#7315982)

Indeed, as one commentator noted, this device was imagined, if not implemented, by the phone phreaks, and was named the "Chrome Box" - just a bit of a tidbit from my misspent youth!

Re:Chrome box (1)

Pakaran2 (138209) | about 11 years ago | (#7315997)

Heh - are these the same folks who published plans on how to power your house out of the phopne lines? Most of their textfiles [textfiles.com] will never be implemented. Especially the ones about things like making cocaine by concentrating espresso.

Temporary traffic lights (1)

adrianbaugh (696007) | about 11 years ago | (#7315992)

Many temporary traffic lights in the UK operate a slightly different, but equally hackable, system. There's a simple (no doubt cheap) light sensor that detects the vehicle's flashing light. If you get to one of these lights when it's read (and there are no cars in front of you) it only takes a little practice to get them to change by flashing your headlights at it.
You can tell the ones this will work on as they have a small black box on the stalk with a smooth side facing the approaching traffic.

Isn't this illegal? (2, Interesting)

ezraekman (650090) | about 11 years ago | (#7315998)

This kind of thing strikes me as the real-world equivalent of exploiting an unsecured software backdoor. You are, in effect, "hacking" the streetlight network. Hmm... sounds like a good book title. ;-) I'm not sure I buy into the "chaos will ensue" hype. There are European cities that use similar devices (though, with different technologies) to allow public transit to get through traffic quickly, to advocate leaving your car at home. But that's where control over lights should lie: with the appropriate authorities.

Why do these lights exist? To solve traffic problems. They do this by effectively "controlling" drivers. If the traffic authorities decide that it is beneficial to give the priority to emergency vehicles and public transit, so be it. I feel that this is beneficial to society. But when drivers force the system to obey their wishes, they are circumventing the apparent benefits of such a system, putting themselves before society. IMHO, this is wrong.

I'm waiting for the first case to go to trial. Think it'll be seen as the equivalent of running a red light, or gaining unauthorized access to a network?

Re:Isn't this illegal? (1)

fenix down (206580) | about 11 years ago | (#7316060)

Well, I'm betting it's much more likely that it'll be seen as vehicular manslaughter. Suburban flips light, Suburban hits Toyota, Toyota becomes steel-meat pulp, Suburban driver goes to jail. By having one of these in your car, you've basically admitted responsibility in whatever accidents you might get into. Your box is off, somebody runs the light, hits you, breaks their neck. Yeah, sure, your box wasn't on, see you in 5-10, buddy.

We have light-sensitive systems in the UK (5, Interesting)

jo_ham (604554) | about 11 years ago | (#7316006)

There are sensors on the top of traffic lights in the UK that respond to headlights.

If an ambulance is approaching lights on red he can flash his full beams a few times and the sequence changes.

I use this feature all the time at the lights near my house, especially late at night when the deafult sequence on the lights is to stay green for the main road all the time unless a car approaches on the minor road.

How many time has this happened to you ? (1)

zymano (581466) | about 11 years ago | (#7316034)

Sitting at a redlight with no other traffic around and your thinking to yourself why their has been no technological advance in traffic lights. Or how about hitting 4 red lights within 100 yards and seeing little if any traffic for the oncoming. Doesn't that just piss you off ?

If this product makes traffic routing more efficient and brings it to the 21st century then I am all in favor !!!!

THINK BEFORE YOU POST!!! (2, Insightful)

fmaxwell (249001) | about 11 years ago | (#7316037)

Maybe if everyone had these, it would lead to smarter intersections.

How "smart" would it be to have 28 vehicles and an ambulance all approaching a four-way, urban intersection with these devices fighting to get the green light? It would serve you right to be the heart attack victim in that ambulance as it sat there in gridlock.

If you want to think stupid things, go ahead, but don't encourage your fellow idiots to do something that could kill innocent people.

Solution: (1)

CSharpMinor (610476) | about 11 years ago | (#7316044)

GPS + small network Fire truck gets tracked by traffic computer, lights along route change as needed. Of course, I'm sure that city planners would manage to screw this up (using an unencrypted WiFi connection on emergency vehicles, turning your local wardriver into Mercurius, God of Traffic). Still it sounds smarter than a laser with thirty seconds of warning. (San Diego drivers know how long people will continue pushing through an intersection for.)

Rarely used (3, Informative)

bobthemuse (574400) | about 11 years ago | (#7316045)

I've worked for several ambulance companies and spent a good amount of times in cities on the east coast, and I have never seen an ambulance with this device installed.

On top of that, traffic regulations technically require ambulances to stop at red lights and proceed through after the've verified that traffic is stopped. I think the siren would be more effective than a sudden red light.

Maybe I can see a use for turning it green, as it would help get the traffic in front out of the way, give them space to pull over, but for this to work, they'd have to activate it from a distance. Since IR isn't focused like a laser, I doubt it would work from a great distance.

Re:Rarely used (2, Informative)

thebigmacd (545973) | about 11 years ago | (#7316065)

Next time you go by a traffic light, observe the little black cylinder on top of a small pole. Each black cylinder has a sensor which is shrouded by a shroud similar to what is on the traffic lights themselves. This is the infrared sensor. In my town fire trucks and ambulances use them. One of the traffic lights has the sensor on about a 20-foot pole above the lights cuz there is an overpass and it wouldnt trigger soon enough if it were lower. I heard that the ones around here can be triggered with a consumer strobe light.

Could this be the a classic Chrome Box? (4, Informative)

EMIce (30092) | about 11 years ago | (#7316051)

I guess the slashdot editors editors weren't too into the hacking/phreaking scene back in the day. This was documented some 10 years ago.

If you want proof, consult the google time machine [google.com] . Scroll down or search for "Chrome Box".

No body ever got fired for buying 3M? (1)

dvdeug (5033) | about 11 years ago | (#7316053)

Frank Carrier, the 3M dealer, says that's only fair. If Gow wants to compete, he should create his own system, including a receiver that can be locked as well, Carrier said. Providing only a transmitter as his business is parasitic, he said.

Did no one else notice this quote, that no one should be building third party attachments to systems?

More info about optocom sensors (4, Informative)

NetMasta10bt (468001) | about 11 years ago | (#7316056)

Here is some more information [svbxlabs.com] with pictures of the Optocom sensors (mounted to the signals) and of EMS and Fire transmission units.

One legit use I can think of (3, Insightful)

finkployd (12902) | about 11 years ago | (#7316057)

Motorcycles. Generally I cannot trigger a light change to save my life, so I sit there like an idiot waiting for a car to come up behind me and hopefully get close enough to trigger it for me. Especially annoying at intersections where one must wait for a green arrow to turn left. Still though, I do not believe that is enough of a problem to warrant the general public getting these.

The idea of non emergency people having these is insane. And you know it is going to be the H2 driving, cell phone yapping, news paper reading, oblivious to the world around them group that will absolutly HAVE to have these. I mean my god, I have to get to my office to start on today's fancy bookeeping and intern bonking, RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Damn all these plebes and their "right of way" nonsense, can't they see I'm more important?

Damn I'm bitter today.

Finkployd

Hey, all you high and mighty naysayers (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 11 years ago | (#7316058)

Not all uses of this are for evil. What if you're driving around at night and you encounter a light with no-one around? Is it really so wrong to turn the light then, since it affects no-one else and can save you a a minute or two (or five, depending on the light). Especially since there is no law against it at all (which is the sticking point for many people harping on obeying the speed limits). There is no safety problem with running a red light at night if you have good visibility in all directions, and in fact this device makes such a move safer for everyone.

I have to admit though that the temptation to use it for evil (at lights during the day when lots of cars around) would be very hard to resist.

I also wonder what happens if multiple people really starting using them, what happens when two people going different directions request a green? Perhaps it reverts to normal behavior, in which case many users would cancel each other out (but effecting emergency traffic, which is really bad).

encoding (1)

bobthemuse (574400) | about 11 years ago | (#7316064)

Preemption-equipped traffic signals that are programmed to only respond to custom-encoded preemption transmitters will not work with any MIRT product at this time. However, the actual percentage of preemption-equipped intersections that only respond to custom-encoded transmitters is very small.

If this becomes more common, how long do you think it will take cities to custom encode their receivers?

I wonder what this "encoding" is. Since the car is described as transmitting an IR strobe, I assume it's a simple pattern or a specific frequency...?
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