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Combining traffic light control and wireless mesh networking

Here's an idea I had years ago and tried to promote to some of the earliest wireless companies, such as Metricom, without success. I just posted it on Dave Farber's IP list, so I should write it up again for my own blog...

The idea is a win-win situation for wireless service and municipalities. Combine wireless data service with traffic light control. Offer a wireless mesh company the use of a city's traffic light poles -- which provide a nice high spot at every major intersection in town, with power available -- in exchange for using that network for traffic control. Indeed, I think this space is so valuable to the wireless companies that they should probably buy traffic control software and offer it free to the cities.

The bandwidth for light control is of course trivial. One could also support traffic cams (though hopefully not universal surveillance cams) to help provide dynamic adjustments to the traffic system.

Today, full-bore automatic traffic lights are expensive -- $150,000 in many cases. That's because of the need to bring in safety-equipment grade power, and to dig up the road to lay down vehicle sensors,
as well as data of course. That's changing. New lights use LEDs and thus a fair bit less power. (Some cities have realized that the LED switch pays for itself very quickly.) I think car sensor tech is changing too, and especially with a large market, either LIDAR or CCD cameras with automatic recognition should be capable of good traffic detection without digging up the road.

So it's a win all around. Cities get better traffic flow (and less gas is burned) and wireless networks sprout everywhere to compete with the monopoly cable/ILEC crew.

For places where a full street light is too expensive, I have also suggested the [wireless brokered 4-way stop](/archives/000118.html) as an alternative.


There was a story going around in Edinburgh about ten years ago. Apparently, the Edinburgh road people and Heriot-Watt university got together, and fed all the live traffic light data into a supercomputer to model traffic flow. They then used the results so the computer controlled the lights. The result was that there was no traffic. The old situation where you drive for ten seconds from the lights to another set that turn red just before you reach them didn't happen, and all the traffic was fast and smooth.

Of course, they stopped it, realising perhaps that too much money is earned from fuel duty, traffic violations and car parking. Congestion is a business now.

Today, in most places, you pull away from the lights and get stopped by the red light in front of you for 20 seconds, then go on to the next one, etc. Driving at 45 gets you through, but at the risk of the speed cameras, which earn money. The other way is to drive at 6mph so they change back just as you get to them, but that's even dumber!

I'm planning to make a master degree about this subject
City traffic aided by computer, so I'm looking for companies that develop this kind of technology, can you help me?

Can you help me to find the speed sensor??
i'm so frustated looking for this sensor.

Im developiong a simple system for a university project actually. it include a CCD to stream live video and capture a car jumping the red light.its connected wirelessly through a video capture card to the base station. also the base controls another microcontroller at the ligth monitoring traffic flow as well.the only problems im having is integrating the live video/image capture with my GUI (VB). Magnetic sensors in the road detect the cars. Any tips on speeding up my deveopment (its due soon) with regads to capturing the video?

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