By on June 29, 2011

Whereas speed cameras are plenty in Japan, the use of red light cameras has yet to catch on in the land of the rising sun. Instead of viewing red lights as revenue sources, Japan (which certainly could use the funds) is spending money in a big way to make red lights and stop signs safer. The Japanese National Police Agency is starting to roll out its Driving Safety Support System (DSSS) in Japan in July. Instead of waiting for someone to run a read light, and then dispatching a costly ticket, this system attempts to reduce the instances of red lights run. Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers are starting to integrate their cars into this system.

Basically, car navigation systems receive traffic information from roadside infrared beacons. This is not macro information, warning you about a traffic jam you most likely already sit in. It is fine-grained and highly targeted information about what is sometimes literally just around the corner.

This is how it works: There are roadside infrared beacons that communicate with on-board Driving Safety Support System (DSSS) receivers. They feed the information into the on-board navigation computer. It informs the driver about five possible situations:

Red light warning: A roadside infrared beacons signals the car that a read light is ahead.If the on-board system detects the possibility of running a red light, it alerts the driver.

Green light alert: Prior to the traffic light changing to green, a notification is given to the driver. No more honking necessary from fellow drivers.

Stop sign warning: A warning is sent to the driver if the system detects the possibility of the vehicle running a stop sign. There goes another souce of revenue.

Stationary vehicle ahead: Sensors ahead of the vehicle gather traffic data. If there is a stationary or low-speed vehicle ahead, the driver receives a notification.

Blind corners: If there is a vehicle around a blind corner, drivers on the road with the right-of-way are notified.

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10 Comments on “Red Lights In Japan...”


  • avatar
    johnny ro

    This is the sort of thing which I had been hoping for with regards to technological revolution.

    Chances of adoption in US? Low, low, low. Many reasons. None good.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    That’s quite a complex system. I wonder how much it would cost to implement?

    Also, what would happen if the system failed (and people were driving in a manner that relied upon it)? I don’t mean this as a major criticism or anything (after all current systems fail–lights go out, and so on), but would drivers be notified for example if the system went down?

    I do like the overall spirit of the program, but would have to think about it a little more.

    • 0 avatar

      Not complex at all. Compared to the fully networked systems that rely on GPS, a data center and the vagaries of mobile data, actually quite simple.

      • 0 avatar
        Philosophil

        Complexity is a relative term, after all. Thanks, Bertel.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        Thanks for reminding me why I don’t blame Pioneer for keeping its Carrozzeria stuff exclusive to the home market. While its Smart Loop system is a marvel of social networking as applied to vehicle navigation, traffic alerts and point of interest recommendations, the balkanized network in this country effectively makes such a system impossible to implement.

        Compared to that, this sort of early warning system is something I’d be happy to see in a new car of my choosing, especially with the memories of far too many close calls on Monument Hill coloring my view of its usefulness.

  • avatar
    John R

    Your local US municipality says, “Wait, how do WE make money on this?”

  • avatar
    IronTed

    Yes! I love sex!

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I wonder what kind of safeguards are built in to deter pranksters from sending false signals?

  • avatar
    JMII

    OK, sounds good, but what about a system that checks traffic conditions and turns the light GREEN when no other traffic is around? Or a system that detects the number of cars trying to make a turn and allows that particular lane to stay green a bit longer to let all the cars thru? In theory there are ground sensors that already do this, but in my experience it doesn’t work worth a hill of beans. I’ve sat at lights at 3AM (goin’ fishin’) with only one other car around and yet waited for the light to cycle completely (4 mins for all lanes!) while I sit wasting gas.

    We keep hearing about “smart road” technology and hive mind systems that constantly update (in real time) traffic conditions by collecting data from various sources (traffic cams, GPSs, road sensors, iPhone apps) but I’m still waiting for it to happen on a large enough scale and with fast enough results to be useable on my daily commute.

  • avatar
    SimonAlberta

    This seems potentially to be worthwhile technology but I suspect the human beings will find a way to render it next-to-useless or downright dangerous.

    Just because they are “warned” about obstacles etc. doesn’t mean they will necessarily react in the appropriate ways.


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