I grew up in a town that had zero traffic lights. That’s right, not even the blinky yellow ones near the School X-ing sign. But I have always liked traffic lights. In fact, I have one perched above my desk in the Pocobor office (see below – more on my traffic light in future posts). Traffic lights often get a bad rap since they’re mostly associated with accidents and slowing you down when you’re trying to get somewhere. I think that a well-implemented traffic light is a beautiful thing that often goes unrecognized. One great example is timed traffic lights – sequential lights become green at intervals that match the traffic’s speed. By timing the lights in this manner, a chunk of traffic passes down the street at a preset speed, resulting in far fewer stops along the way.
My Traffic Light
Timed traffic lights are a great example of a Smart Product. Computer software coordinates an entire street’s (or even city’s) lights to act as an intelligent system. With the addition of sensors (in-road vehicle detectors, pedestrian buttons, and camera-based sensors) the traffic light system can respond to real-world demands as they happen.
In San Francisco it is easy to observe the benefit of timed lights. For example, compare Van Ness Ave (no timed lights) to Gough Street or Franklin Street (both with timed lights). Van Ness is painfully congested at most hours of the day. Here is a page that lists the San Francisco streets with timed lights: ask.metafilter.com/70841/What-streets-in-San-Francisco-have-timed-lights
An interesting look at timed lights in Louisville, KY: