Have you ever sat at a red traffic light with no other cars or pedestrians on the road and had to wait? Was it frustrating? If you were in a gasoline or diesel car, did you feel bad about polluting the air?
Have you ever sat at a traffic light with 30 cars in each direction waiting to go straight, and the traffic lights instead allowed the turn lanes to go first even though there were no cars in those turn lanes?
In 1978, I attended the Toward Tomorrow Fair at the University of Massachusetts. I heard Buckminster Fuller, the inventor and futurist, speak. Among his other creative insights that he shared, he railed against traffic lights for being so wasteful. He was right. They’ve gotten slightly smarter and more efficient since then, but there’s still much room for improvement. With the advent of some new technology, the time has come to move into a new age with smart traffic lights.
Dumb Traffic Lights Will Be a Thing of the Past
Dumb traffic lights could be a thing of the past, and relatively soon. The technology exists to make it happen. Guess who has this technology? Elon Musk and Tesla.
Smart traffic lights will allow vehicles to no longer face timed rotations of which cars can pass when, which creates unnecessary waiting times. Traffic flow will be guided by the traffic itself. Which lanes advance or turn next can be controlled by the number of vehicles that are in which lane waiting to advance or turn.
As a part of the endeavor to create autonomous vehicles, Tesla has created cameras that can recognize all of the items needed to make smart lights a reality. These include: small cars, big vehicles (SUV), buses, vans, semi trucks, pickup trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, bike lanes, bicycles, dogs, road cones, solid lines, dashed lines, double lines, stop markings on the road, arrows on the road, trashcans, railroad crossings, lane poles, parking spaces, and parking signs.
Please note what isn’t required: in-road sensors. Savings from no longer installing these, and having to deal with them when re-paving roads, will create found money that can be applied to the cost of smart traffic lights.
While there are more parts of the puzzle needed, a large portion of the work has been completed. Many large intersections where this technology would be utilized already have traffic cameras installed that have resolution levels that are fine enough to capture license plate characters. What is remaining is data collection, algorithm creation, software programming, and an interface with the light control technology.
Level 6 Autonomous Driving
“Level 6 Autonomous Driving,” which is being proposed here on CleanTechnica for the first time, is when we have a number of networked transportation components operative to keep traffic flowing smoothly, efficiently, and safely:
1. Smart lights can be installed now to reduce waiting times, full stops, and partial stops at intersections. Autonomous vehicles aren’t needed for this step, and implementing smart lights now would eliminate significant cumulative tons of Particulate Matter (PM), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Sulfur dioxide (SO2), benzene, acetaldehyde, and other air pollutants, which will improve the health of many citizens, and reduce unnecessary healthcare, and fuel costs. Installing smart lights as soon as possible will provide advance testing time so they will be ready when we get close to implementing Level 6 autonomous driving.
2. All smart lights and Level 5 autonomous-capable vehicles will be upgraded to include Level 6 networking software.
3. When the component parts within the framework of an integrated, transportation system are fully networked.
4. The networked transportation components of the Level 6 autonomous system will include:
A. the vehicles, including autos, ambulances, vans, buses, trucks, motorcycles, law enforcement, military, government vehicles;
B. stop lights;
C. train crossings;
D. toll roads;
E. parking lots and other paid-entry facilities;
F. low-clearance bridges, and draw bridges;
H. restricted areas with vehicle approvals such as corporate facilities, government installations, university campuses, gated communities, airports; and
I. wifi-capable towns, cities, regions.
5. Traffic and wifi will be monitored and managed at regional control centers performing tasks such as:
A. re-routing traffic for construction, accidents, flooding, bridge outages, landslides, icy roads, large public events, sink holes, other obstructions or disturbances in the roadways;
B. Amber alerts straight to vehicles;
C. tornado, flash flooding, or other weather communications;
D. balancing traffic flows on different roads to prevent traffic jams.
What do you say, Elon? Are you game to make smart traffic lights? Will you please save us all from the wretched dumb traffic lights?
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Electrifying Industrial Heat for Steel, Cement, & More
I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...