When Your Mobile Talks To Traffic Lights, Do You Feel Envy?

Martin Schwoerer
by Martin Schwoerer
when your mobile talks to traffic lights do you feel envy

Researchers at The Institute of Traffic Engineering and Logistics in Kassel, Germany, don’t like induction loops (those things under the pavement that detect how long a car has been waiting for traffic lights to change). They say the loops are expensive, failure-prone and easily damaged. Simplistic, too: they only say how long a car has been waiting; they don’t tell you how many other cars are in line, how many are approaching and whether the other drivers plan to turn off or go straight ahead. The solution: mobile phones that automatically communicate with traffic lights. AKTIV (Adaptive and Kooperative Technologies for Intelligent Traffic, a project funded with federal millions) envisions mobile phones equipped with WLAN and GPS sensors, installed inside cars that tell nearbye traffic lights where you are heading. As a quid pro quo, the traffic lights tell your mobile how many seconds remain till the light turns green and whether you should turn your engine off. Traffic flows should improve, because AKTIV (pro-actively) times traffic light changes according to the amount of vehicles waiting. It should save fuel too, because stops are shorter and enables engine shut-down combined, with a “wake up call” to let drivers know green is on the way. A pilot project will begin in 2009. I asked AKTIV’s Walter Scholl if people fear Big Brother. “We consider data protection crucial. So all car data will be anonymized, and deleted as soon as you leave a junction.” But isn’t it so that the more gadgets people use, the less attentive they drive? “We have a working unit concentrating on ‘safety and attentiveness,’ and we need to attain empirical evidence that our system doesn’t distract from the task of driving.” Isn’t this technical overkill? Why not just replace traffic lights with traffic circles / roundabouts? “Good question… Roundabouts help, but there will always be many situations where lights are better and safer. In addition, our system will help reduce the amount of street signs as well as other distractions”. I’d like to hope so.

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  • Storminvormin Storminvormin on Sep 14, 2008

    Car geeks would latch onto this like herpes. Jill soccer mom and grandpa crown victoria would most likely get information overload.

  • Geotpf Geotpf on Sep 15, 2008

    I don't see why it has to use the cell phone network at all. Couldn't there just be a very low powered radio in the car that says "Hi, I'm a car waiting"? In any case, there's a big chicken-or-the-egg problem here (the system won't work unless there are a lot of traffic lights that have the system and a lot of cars with the system), plus the added cost (unless the car has an On*Star-like system, you'd have to have a mobile for the car just for this).

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