What If Everyone Could Change Traffic Lights?

from the does-everyone-want-to-do-this? dept

John wrote in with this article about traffic light changers. Certain traffic lights have controls that let drivers of emergency vehicles equipped with the right equipment to force the light to change in their favor with an infrared signal. The technology isn’t new, and I remember seeing similar devices on the market years ago, but suddenly some people are afraid that if everyone had these devices there would be havoc on the roads, as traffic lights would keep getting switched back and forth. I honestly don’t think this is a huge problem. While I’m sure a few gadget-fans might be willing to pay $300 for such a device just because it’s kind of cool, I doubt most people are willing to spend that much money just to change a few traffic lights on their commute. Besides, depending on where you are, not that many traffic lights are equipped to understand these devices. The bigger issues is which brilliant thinker came up with the idea to use an open system for these devices? It seems pretty obvious that if you want to create a system that only those responding to an emergency can use, you would build it with certain mechanisms to make sure that only those who are authorized can use it. Since the technology has been around for a while, my only guess is that they were first designed before the internet had really caught on, and before anyone realized that this sort of information was bound to get out. It was an attempt at security through obscurity that may now be backfiring. Of course, the answer will be to create new devices that require authorization.

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Comments on “What If Everyone Could Change Traffic Lights?”

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mgallagher says:

Mostly it's older equipment that can be exploited

Many of us have known for a while how to make the 3M Opticom system do things that it wasn’t really supposed to: the older system had two modes of operation Preempt and piority. Each was triggered by a strobe flashing at the appropriate rate. The preempt mode is what caused an immediate suspension of the signal timing plan and would give a green in the the appropriate direction-so that’s what most people were interested in.

3M caught on pretty quickly and the newer versions actually send a serial number encoded with the strobe and the signal controller can be programmed to allow only certain serial numbers to activate the various functions the system has. Not perfect, but it would probably keep most of the casual green-lighters away. Of course, that mean upgrades to a lot of equipment, and cities generally don’t like to spend money on stuff like upgrades to signal systems.

Anyway, look for devices like this to be less and less useful in the future.

DL says:

New Revenue Stream For Towns And Cities

Set up an EZ-Pass like system that covers the country, and allow any city or town in the country to sign up for it. Small towns would be especially likely, maybe in Florida particularly where they are known for speed traps.

Drivers who become members of the program get priority routing through town, with lights changing to green for them magically. I’d love to drive around town like that.

The revenue goes to the tax coffers of the local district for road improvements and other things.

Works great until everyone has it, of course, so you need to make it fairly expensive so that only the very rich would sign up.

LittleW0lf says:

Fun with Red Lights?

We live 250 feet from a fire station (which considering we live in San Diego County, is probably a good thing at the moment, except that all the fire equipment is off saving other people’s homes,) and about a quarter of a mile from several lights controlled by these devices. From what I can tell, just watching these lights, the way the author states these devices work is not the way I’ve seen them work (it may just be that this works with older equipment.)

When the fire engine leaves the fire station, with lights and siren, as it approaches the intersection, the lights in all four directions switch to red. The lights stay red until after the fire engine leaves the intersection, then the system switches back to normal. I’ve seen this happen with each lighted intersection in the area (and I think this is one of the safest ways of dealing with emergency vehicles, since drivers may not see or hear them, but will most likely stop for a red light.)

And, dorpus, you are still an idiot. Terrorists didn’t start this fire, there were three fires, one was started by tracer fire at Camp Pendleton, one was started by an idiot hunter who got lost and fired off a flare, and the third (closest to where I live,) was started south of the border, maybe by illegal aliens (a very common occurance here,) and burned its way north.

Bob Who ? (user link) says:

Re: Fun with Red Lights?

These things DO work. I lived in SD (East county) a few yrs ago, and the trigger here is 480 strobe flashes a minute (14 per second) I used to do it all the time there, It was a expensive strobe that you can digitally set to 480 flashes on a LCD.. Ive also got a MIRT to, and because it is behind a ruby red lens it has been transformed to INFARED, Still works and is still PRESET to 480 flashes. Works fine and super easy to hide.

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