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Thread: Wondering about traffic lights

  1. #1
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    Wondering about traffic lights

    Sitting in traffic this morning on my way to work, I was wondering: Why, in the 21st century, are traffic lights still based on 19th century technology? We have self-driving cars, for heaven's sake, yet each day millions of cars sit in long lines idling their engines, burning gas and spewing carbon into the air, while the cross road is empty.

    I'm no engineer, but it seems to me that it would be relatively simple to use GPS, motion detection and other technologies to make traffic lights more efficient, instead of relying on mechanical timers and switches.

    Am I missing something here? Or is this just the result of inertia on the part of city planners?

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    Senior Member KayLR's Avatar
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    Our county is going the way of roundabouts---in the 3 miles from the interstate west to my town there are 4 roundabouts. This is in a semi-rural area. Several more are in the plans at smaller cities' exits from the main highways. Some love 'em, some hate 'em.
    My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already!

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    Quote Originally Posted by KayLR View Post
    Our county is going the way of roundabouts---in the 3 miles from the interstate west to my town there are 4 roundabouts. This is in a semi-rural area. Several more are in the plans at smaller cities' exits from the main highways. Some love 'em, some hate 'em.
    We are getting more roundabout here too. I didn't want them to begin with but am getting used to them and do not mind them. What I do mind are people who do not know how to use a roundabout, i.e. traffic coming off the expressway that assume expressway exiting traffic has right of way regardless of cars already in the roundabout and people who stop rather than merging waiting for cars not yet to the roundabout to enter. They are, however, better than waiting at a long red light with no other cars in site.

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    It might be relatively simple to use GPS, etc., but I suspect it is also very expensive. The cost is probably prohibitive for the average city/town/state.

    There are intersections where a light is triggered when a car pulls up to the intersection. The weight of the car triggers a green light. This helps keep traffic moving when there is little traffic on a cross street. It might be more cost effective to use more technology like this, intersection by intersection, rather than GPS. I could see motion detection working in some areas, as well.

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    Senior Member jp1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Cellaneous View Post
    It might be relatively simple to use GPS, etc., but I suspect it is also very expensive. The cost is probably prohibitive for the average city/town/state.

    There are intersections where a light is triggered when a car pulls up to the intersection. The weight of the car triggers a green light. This helps keep traffic moving when there is little traffic on a cross street. It might be more cost effective to use more technology like this, intersection by intersection, rather than GPS. I could see motion detection working in some areas, as well.
    Itís actually the steel in the car triggering the sensor. Bike riders know to trigger the light by rolling over the little wire lines. This necame an issue forme when i put aluminum wheels on my bike.

  6. #6
    Senior Member bae's Avatar
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    We have one traffic light in our village.

    It is in the Historical Society's museum. It was installed at an intersection for 2 weeks, many many decades ago, then removed.

    We have several stylish STOP signs though.

  7. #7
    Senior Member rosarugosa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Cellaneous View Post
    It might be relatively simple to use GPS, etc., but I suspect it is also very expensive. The cost is probably prohibitive for the average city/town/state.

    There are intersections where a light is triggered when a car pulls up to the intersection. The weight of the car triggers a green light. This helps keep traffic moving when there is little traffic on a cross street. It might be more cost effective to use more technology like this, intersection by intersection, rather than GPS. I could see motion detection working in some areas, as well.
    Hey Miss Cellaneous, Are you AKA Miss Cellane? If so, welcome back, I was wondering what happened to you. There aren't too many of us New Englanders here you know. If not, then welcome anyway.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Rogar's Avatar
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    Our city has been working on a light rail mass transit system for the last several years. Where streets cross the tracks there is an elaborate system to lower crossing bars on the across the street when a train is approaching. It has caused major problems and even accidents due to system failure. Having smart street traffic lights has a good sound to it, but might be more complicated than it seems or something for future technology.

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    Yes, it's me, formerly Miss Cellane. Had issues logging in under the old name/password for months, and finally just decided to start anew.

    And thanks for remembering me--wasn't sure if anyone would.

  10. #10
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Tradfic systems are hugely expensive, so municipalities arent going to swap put anything wholesale any time soon.

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