Efforts to be "smarter" misplaced

I read about all the efforts towards the full auto-pilot car, and I think that they are doomed to fail. Now we see drivers asleep or reading as their car drives itself down the highway. UGH.
I think that smart development money would be far better spent on traffic lighting systems that are able to truly minimize the time wasted. I live in a college town that has the briefest rush hours. I often sit at traffic lights that have long periods of zero car movement, either because there is no car there when the light is green, or no left turners. Or, one direction has a long line of cars stopped in order for one car to enter from a side street. For example, has there ever been any attempt to have the stop-light system communicating with individual cars, either one-way or two-way? What would a truly intelligent design require?

All lighted intersections in my town are county highways. The county controls light timing. The city can only make recommendations. I’ve spent hours of my life waiting at red lights when I have been only car. It’s useless. It’s my quality “alone” time.

1 Like

Over the past decade or so, more and more of the traffic lights in my neck of the woods have been linked to a camera-like device that alters the timing of the traffic light, depending on the flow of traffic. Some people have mininterpreted these devices as the type that snaps one’s picture if you run the red light, but in reality all they do is to detect the presence of traffic in order to eliminate endess waits for a green light when cross traffic is light or non-existent.

Unfortunately the percentage of traffic lights that have been converted in this manner is probably only about 30-40%, but it does help that there are as many as there already are. Hopefully they will increase in the future.

1 Like

I live with that every day! The major north-south route has a 45 mph speed limit that every snowbird tourist drives at 33 mph in-season and every local drives at 50-55 mph out of season. If they ARE timed (no evidence they are!) it makes NO difference as everyone ends up stopping and clogging it up.

There are systems that link every light into a communication mesh with every sensor that measure traffic to adjust light cycle times on an area-wide basis. It has been around for decades. With smart cameras as sensors, they are even better at judging traffic.

So why aren’t they everywhere?

Political landscapes. Not the R vs D thing, but cities’, counties’ and states’ responsibility for traffic in their areas. My dad headed up a multi-county planning agency that was given authority to plan roads, signals, bridges and traffic systems. They could have implemented that type of system if it had been available at the time. My county and the nearby cities don’t have such an agency.

My 2 cities (same county) that I am in the most have the set up like VDCdriver/Mustangman talked about, some lights are more timed but some are traffic driven it seems… The red light leaving my neighborhood (2 right turn lanes and 1 left turn lane) doesn’t turn red unless a vehicle is getting close, and if only one vehicle it will turn red again if you are dragging your feet, but it will stay green longer when lots of vehicles are there… The light just down the main 5 lane rd is more timed, it only stays red for 2 minutes total and that is with letting the cross road go one side at a time and the the turning lanes, but still only red 2 minutes…
Yeah when you drive a car that doesn’t like idling at stop lights and you either turn the car off or leave it running hoping it doesn’t get over 200 degrees then you learn what stop lights do what… :rofl:

Depends on your time line and how you define successful. In the short term it won’t be successful because there hasn’t been enough research done. It takes time to measure the effectiveness of a crash mitigation method and then compare it to other methods or the same method with enhanced sensors. While some lab simulations can help, it’s mostly real life testing that will determine the utility of crash avoidance systems. Also no method will avoid accidents all the time. Then again, neither you nor I can avoid accidents all the time either. IMO we will have crash avoidance systems that allow autonomous driving eventually, but not yet.

1 Like

In my town there’s city streets, county roads and Federal highways. The city would like to remedy traffic light problems that are on a Federal road that goes directly through town. But the bureaucracy and red tape involved with two or three government agencies working together is astronomical. Been talking about it for years with no action taken as of yet.

Most of the traffic lights in my township are connected to a sensor under the roadway which detects if there is a car waiting at the intersection. When it detects that a vehicle has pulled up, it starts a timer which will turn the signal red to stop the cross traffic.

I’m sure officials assume lights are fine. They change eventually.

I think the under-road detector was probably first used in the 1960’s. It still triggers a green light even if 30 cars are stopped. Not too “smart”. Other systems described here often do not have a string of synchronized lights, but have just single intersection systems.

It would be useful to have developers thinking outside the box with area-wide interconnected systems that truly keep cars moving. Should our city MPG really be just 2/3 of our highway MPG?
What if a string of closely-packed cars were linked together like train cars, but electronically, not mechanically linked.

Get a hybrid. I get better mpgs in town.

1 Like

I got a hybrid; I burn gas and rubber. :rofl:

There’s no money in it. Similar to how many of the stop-light controlled intersections in this area, the bicycle sensor is installed, but doesn’t work; so bicyclists have to cross the street by pushing the pedestrian button, which has a 45 second crossing period, vs 10-15 seconds for a working bicycle sensor. Very little financial incentive for gov’t to repair, just let the traffic wait 30 seconds longer is the thinking I guess.

It is not a profit center. But traffic delays cost everybody money. And they tick off everyone, including the politicians.

The alternative to gridlock is to build more roadways… or smooth out traffic patterns with smart traffic lights. There’s your money… cheaper to network lights than build highways.

I’d also think there is significant emissions reduction if they keep cars moving.


Well, here is a Tesla owner who decidedto “improve” the performance of his Tesla Auto-pilot. This was reported today in a lengthy article about much higher incidence of accidents with Teslas.

Authorities said Yee had fixed weights to the steering wheel to trick Autopilot into registering the presence of a driver’s hands: Autopilot disables the functions if steering pressure is not applied after an extended amount of time. Yee did not respond to a request for comment.

Too bad you cannot program the humans. Around here, there are a few roadways where the lights are timed to allow smoother flowing traffic. Then you factor in the stupid human to the equation and just a few can and do screw it up for everyone else. All it takes is a few people either speeding or going way too slow and the timing gets messed up. If you go the speed limit, you arrive at the next intersection as the light is turning green but there’s already a stopped queue of people waiting. And so you have to stop and wait. Then they race to the next one to stop there too…