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Science Hardware

Traffic Light Switcher Makes Critics See Red 600

Posted by simoniker
from the green-for-go dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to a Yahoo/Washington Post article: 'It sounds like a suffering commuter's dream come true: a dashboard device that changes red traffic lights to green at the touch of a button. Police, fire and rescue vehicles have had access to such equipment for years, but now the devices are becoming available to ordinary motorists thanks to advances in technology and a little help from the Internet. Safety advocates are outraged, and news accounts in Michigan last week led to politicians there seeking a ban on the gadgets'." Update: 11/06 02:25 GMT by S : A previous Slashdot story mentions the device, though not the Michigan legislature's subsequent ire.
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Traffic Light Switcher Makes Critics See Red

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  • Chrome box (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Did we forget the old chrome boxes?
  • I Wish... (Score:3, Funny)

    by robbyjo (315601) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:22PM (#7403215) Homepage

    Gee... I wish I had a similar device for "See it early" Slashdot post... ;P

  • by NewWaveNet (584716) <me@austinheap.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:23PM (#7403223) Homepage Journal
    why these were legal for non-emergency sale in the first place?
    • by pixel.jonah (182967) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:24PM (#7403234)
      FCC controls RF, nobody controls light (IR)
      • FCC controls RF, nobody controls light (IR)

        What if you're receding, so your IR looks like RF? There must be an inertial reference frame where this device becomes illegal.

        This reminds me of a physics problem that is in every physics book in the chapter about relativity and doppler shifts. A motorist is speeding towards a traffic light and runs a red. In traffic court he claims that the red light appeared green to him because of the great speed with which he approached it. The judge fines him one dollar pe
    • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:25PM (#7403242)
      Because things are legal in the US until they're made illegal, instead of the other way around.
      • Yeah, but a ban on devices that have the sole purpose of changing lights doesn't seem like something they should sit around and wait for companies to start selling to the public. It's not like they didn't know it was going to happen.
      • by donscarletti (569232) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:42PM (#7403734)
        Some time ago, just after the dicovery of X-rays in the late nineteenth century, X-ray goggles were banned by congress after intensive lobbying by public decency activists due to conserns of them being used to see through women's clothing.

        X-ray googles have however never been created, and their usage to see through clothing to see naked skin is utturly rediculous, yet they are still illegal. I don't know if this law is still valid, however I doubt if it has been overturned. This is an example however of a technology that never was legal.

  • If you want one (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anubis333 (103791) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:24PM (#7403235) Homepage
    They are on sale here [themirt.com]
  • by smonner (468465) * on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:24PM (#7403237)
    "Can you imagine the nightmare our roads would be if everybody had one?"

    Couldn't the opposite be true? Maybe the light would stay green longer for whichever side had more traffic? Ideally it could create "democratic" intersections and reduce the amount of time you spend stopped with no traffic going the other way. I'm sure it wouldn't actually work, but wouldn't it be cool if it did?
    • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:37PM (#7403346)
      What's funny is this is the exact same problem time-slice managers on OS'es have. Either let one side stay for an extraordinate amount of time and take few hits on switching, or give little slices which takes a big hit on swapping?

      The best roads made are ones done by expert traffic engineers.. In the city I live near, there's 9 stop lights in a 3 lane (one way) road. The posted speed is 25MPH. However, if you go 22.5MPH, every one of them will be green,. Usualy there's an idiot or 2 that burns rubber out of one intersection, while I barely cruise up. By the time I hit the next stoplight, it's already changed.
      • by digitalsushi (137809) * <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:45PM (#7403403) Journal
        i do something like that in really congested traffic. like, 15 mph on the interstate. i'll go 14. i'll end up with 500 feet clear in front of me, and people in the left lane will splash back into the buffer in front of me. i never hit the breaks once. it takes about 8 seconds to cover the buffer space to catch up, and sure enough the person behind me is always absolutely livid that i decided to let a space build up. and most of the time, they cut the person off to the left of me, cut close to me, flip me off in the mirror, peel out, and dart ahead. oy ve
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Good concept, except these things instantly turn the light green for you and red for the other direction. There's no voting system, and what if someone has a juiced up repeater going off... better yet wouldn't it be great to just sit on the side of the road near an intersection and f*ck sh*t up?
    • that's a horrible idea!
    • I'll just order two then. What? You have two? Then I'll get another!

      Trust me - as an American - some forms of democratic control just don't work.

    • Already done. (Score:5, Informative)

      by s20451 (410424) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:49PM (#7403766) Journal
      They already do that. They're called proximity detectors, and they determine when cars are sitting on top of them. They work based on induction [howstuffworks.com].

      Sometimes you can see where they were embedded in the road, especially if the light was retrofitted. Look for a patched-over hole in the pavement directly underneath where the first car would pull up at a stop light.

      That is why some lights only change when your car is sitting there. For additional fun, you might be caught behind some dingus who, for some reason, stopped too far back to trigger the sensor. You're going to be there a while.
  • flash demo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by glassesmonkey (684291) * on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:27PM (#7403263) Homepage Journal
    MIRT, 3M Opticom(R), and Tomar Strobecom(R) traffic signal preemption are optically-based communications systems and the main brands of these systems.

    Clearly this is illegal (or soon will be) and stupid waste of the public's time and money to refit this lights to stop this silly company. FAC of America located out of Minn. runs websites such as TheMIRT [themirt.com] and Guns'N Stuff [gunsnstuff.net] The are allowing people to be resellers for $300/unit.

    There is a flash "demo" of the MIRT in action here [themirt.com]
  • by eggsurplus (631231) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:29PM (#7403278) Journal
    Have every vehicle installed with a device that interacts with a Traffic control light so that it would act like a load balancer. If no one else is by the light then a vehicle would get through without having to stop. Otherwise the light would see how many requests it is getting and let the appropriate group go.
    • Problem... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by herrvinny (698679)
      Then what prevents someone from installing 5-6 devices on one car and skewing the requests the light gets?
    • Much simplier approach, which is widely used here in Canada and
      in the most of Europe, is to embed sensors in a form of loops of wire
      into the road on each side of the intersection. The loop can sense [howstuffworks.com]
      the car directly above it, which allows streetlight controller to learn
      the length of the line-up on every side and switch the lights accordingly.

      Simple design rules :)
  • by jeffy124 (453342) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:30PM (#7403279) Homepage Journal
    i was told by a traffic engineering friend of mine that there are detectors out there that look for the strobe lights that apart of a emergency vehicle's blinkinlights, and change the light colors accordingly. I would assume that normal headlights are distinguishable from emergency lights (otherwise the detectors would be useless).

    Are these the same detectors discussed in the article?
    • In NSW our police cars now have only strobe lights on the roof -- perhaps this is why?
    • by forevermore (582201) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:36PM (#7403344) Homepage
      I was going to comment on this, too; but more along the lines of "changing lights isn't NEW". In the '90's, it was common to see strobe detectors attached to traffic light poles all over the place, but as I understand it, so many civilians purchased devices that would hit the proper strobe frequencies that that the cities had to abandon use of the devices. Sometimes similar technology is used, but instead of turning the lights green, it sets ALL lights in the intersection to red, and emergency vehicles just drive on the wrong side of the road (this has safety concerns, and doesn't seem to be practiced very often).

      Honestly, with the availability of technologies like bluetooth and other encrypted wireless technologies, it shouldn't be hard to just encode a daily/weekly-changing code into the signals and give it out to emergency vehicles as needed.

      That, and teaching drivers how to behave around those flashing lights (ie. pull over to the RIGHT if you are in the US - I've seen too many people on the freeway pull left, only to block an ambulance that was trying to get around traffic by driving on the shoulder).

    • strobe lights are very bright and very fast - there's no filament - it's firing a high voltage charge through a gas (argon?). Think camera flash vs switching on a household incandescent or halogen lamp. On the receiving end the waveform is much sharper and easy to distinguish.
    • Read the FAQ on mirt.com - it clearly states that regular headlight flashing is ineffectual because of the timing involved. Incandescent flashers can't make the frequency or waveforms necessary (see other reply in this thread).
    • by stienman (51024) <adavis AT ubasics DOT com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:55PM (#7403469) Homepage Journal
      These detectors do several things:

      Look for extremely intense and brief flashes in the IR region at a specific frequency (or more than one frequency.

      Strobe lights emit very intense, very brief flashes of light which are loaded with IR. Their controllers flash them at the correct frequency.

      The detectors also take into account reflections and other problems which might cause the detector to misread a signal.

      The reason why this was never really a problem before is that strobe lights are illegal on cars - it turn them into emergency response vehicles, and is against the regulations that concern lights on cars. Further, they are very visible, and can be caught relatively easily. An IR filter over the strobe would reduce this problem, but it would be absorbing so much energy it would get too hot to handle (solvable problem). Lastly the detectors require a very exact frequency, which requires more than a generic radioshack strobe controller. - suffice to say they were not easy for an average joe to build and use.

      With the relatively recent advent of high power, cheap IR LEDs this is now possible for the average joe. The LEDs are still fairly expensive for the power required, but certianly not out of reach. The companies selling these things are making a huge bundle of money, though. $300 for probably less than $20 worth of parts and labor.

      It's an issue that will likely take a technological and hands-on solution. Many installed detectors are already capable of being used with more complex transmitters, they just haven't enabled that feature. Probably can't even find the manual.

      -Adam
      • The reason why this was never really a problem before is that strobe lights are illegal on cars - it turn them into emergency response vehicles, and is against the regulations that concern lights on cars.

        Where do you live? I think I'd like to move out there. Here in the eastern US, I regularly see strobe lights on school buses, construction vehicles, electric utility vehicles, concrete trucks, even some bicycles.

        I hate them! The bright white flashflashflash...............flashflashflash of those things

    • This is what I thought too. In fact, I actually timed the strobes on an ambulance with a stopwatch, to see if I could pin down the timing.

      There were 2 strobe lights on the vehicle, and each would flash twice in a 1 second cycle. (I remember from the stopwatch that it was EXACTLY 1 second, down to the hundredth of a second). It wasn't a steady rate of flashes... Kinda like the below diagram (L=left strobe, R=right strobe)

      L..L......R..R......

      I can't imagine why the modern devices would cost more than $300
    • I've seen it done with a timing light. Hook it up to the coil wire, run the wires out from under the hood, in through the window, and you're off and running. Point and shoot.
  • I wish to purchase the following number of units:* @ $299.00 ea.

    I think taking an extra five minutes to get around is better than dishing out 300 bucks!
  • Bad, bad bad! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roninmagus (721889) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:32PM (#7403307)
    These devices could be contrasted with radar/laser detectors.

    I think the radar/laser detectors are fine, but the devices which allow people to actually change the system should not be allowed.

    Radar/Laser detectors serve a good purpose. Yes, they allow people to "undermine" the law by getting around traffic tickets (if you're alert,) but they also slow down traffic when an officer is nearby. The people with the radar detectors slow down when an officer is running radar nearby, and therefore drive safer because they don't want a ticket.

    However, devices like the ones coming now actually affect the system rather than circumvent it. My having a radar detector does not affecy anyone but me. But one that allows me to change traffic lights in my favor affects the other people on the road!

    This is all IMHO.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:32PM (#7403308)
    This kind of security thinking is akin to hiding your head in the sand. FIX THE PROBLEM! Don't legislate bans on exploits. DESIGN SUCH THINGS SECURELY IN THE FIRST PLACE! It wouldn't be that hard to have developed it with a cryptographically secure access code system in the first place. Sheesh!
    • This kind of security thinking is akin to hiding your head in the sand. FIX THE PROBLEM! Don't legislate bans on exploits. DESIGN SUCH THINGS SECURELY IN THE FIRST PLACE! It wouldn't be that hard to have developed it with a cryptographically secure access code system in the first place. Sheesh!

      You're right. In fact, I'm going to take your prinicle to heart and exploit the weakness in the locks of your residence. Since you clearly believe that if the lock isn't adequate then the laws shouldn't take eff
      • I'm going to take your prinicle to heart and exploit the weakness in the locks of your residence. Since you clearly believe that if the lock isn't adequate then the laws shouldn't take effect, I am doing nothing you shouldn't fully expect.

        As long as you don't subsequently enter the residence. Remember, it's illegal to enter even if the door was already open (although I've never heard of it being illegal simply to pick the lock or test the doorknob). But barring unsafe conditions, it isn't illegal to ent

    • Thats rediculous (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tgd (2822) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:06PM (#7403540)
      Just because you can do something doesn't make it right or legal.

      If the government tells you you can't use one of those, its real simple, don't use them. Use it and suffer the penalty!

      Why the hell should the taxpayers shoulder the massive costs of building a device like that which would be completely immune to misuse? Does it add $1000 per? $10000 per? How much per emergency vehicle? In a town of ten or twenty thousand people with, say, 30 lights, you want the town to give up a teacher or ten because you've got some high and mighty belief that if people CAN do something they SHOULD?

      Thats not Score:4 Insightful, it should be Score:0 Retarded.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I lack hard data, this is all real old (like childhood pre-driving) memory, but my understanding is that this was origionally done way back when (like 60s maybe?)using optical sensors and the pointable floodlight on cop cars. It was abused then and the solution was to switch to to some sort of radio thing and take out the green option, simply turnning the light 4 way red. This did not impede an ememrgency vehicle who was the only thing supposed to use it anyway. So I'm thinkng hoax/urban legend real har
  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:34PM (#7403318) Homepage Journal
    I'll speak on this again.

    While these politicians are at it, why not mandate fuel governors for all cars to prevent them from speeding?

    Why not mandate RFID for everyone so that the police can tell where you are when you're a suspect in a crime?

    I can understand making people responsible for using such a device, but banning them won't do any more good than those states that banned radar detectors.

    LK
    • I've never understood why states banned radar detectors.

      What they should have done was come up with an inexpensive radar simulator device. It wouldn't be hard, and it would be something that cost maybe $10 to produce in quantity.

      Then the police could distribute them all around the streets and highways. They would be little black boxes and easy to conceal.

      They would emit a signal that mimics a police radar. They would cause people who have radar detectors to slow down.

      Since they'd probably be even che
    • by MrPerfekt (414248) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @12:11AM (#7404183) Homepage Journal
      Quite simply this unauthenticated method of changing something so vital to our daily life is idiotic. Beyond that, companies that make this device and market it them to the average consumer as a "Hey, take advantage of the system" product should have the FBI on their door.

      It all comes down to morals and concious. This is not some debacle about copyright, this is about abusing something that actually serves a good purpose for everyone (when have you heard someone complain about the purpose, the purpose not the actual function, of the stop light?). It's bizarre that some people could use this and actually feel good about it.
  • Simple solution... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stubear (130454)
    ...have the change event turn all the lights in the intersection go red. Emergency vehicles will allowed to pass through the intersection AND the intersection will be cleared of any vehicles. Who would want a device that turns lights at an intersection all red? Problem solved.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:40PM (#7403362)
      "Who would want a device that turns lights at an intersection all red?"

      Try the millions of teens who watch 'Jackass' all day.
    • by KillerBob (217953)
      Except that the emergency vehicles are often caught behind traffic when they trip lights like that. Until weenies stop using the lane on the right that peters out 15m past the intersection to get past traffic at red lights, the emergency vehicles would be pretty much stuck if they aren't at the front of the line when the light goes red....

      As you know, them being at the front of the line means they wouldn't need to trip the light... they just need to put the flashers on, wait for traffic to stop, and go. :)
    • Except at intersections with medians where all lanes you have access to (from curb to shining curb) have vehicles in them).

      The best option is to buy the equipment which allows codes to be changed at will (since most lights have a central link anyway) and cars which can similarily be updated at will. It is currently too difficult to take a snapshot of an emergency beacon and distribute it to other exploiter's quickly enough to be useful if codes could be changed weekly. When it does become bad, change t
      • The best option is to buy the equipment which allows codes to be changed at will (since most lights have a central link anyway) and cars which can similarily be updated at will.

        Why not just make it illegal to use the damn things? It's not like traffic lights stop traffic from passing through an intersection, they just determine who is legally allowed to pass through the intersection.

    • You have a point, but if ALL lights all around go red, then the vehicles ahead of the emergency vehicle might obstruct the way.
  • by mooface (674033) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:36PM (#7403341)
    ...this is probably the first time I've thought to myself: why don't people just leave this alone? It's really a public safety issue, and there is no real reason anyone outside of police, fire, etc have to have this device.

    It's not amusing. It's just wrong.

  • solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ratfynk (456467) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:39PM (#7403360) Journal
    simply make the traffic controls go red in all directions only like in Canada. EOP Alot of pissed of motorists but at least emergency vehicles will still have the right of way. Totally UnAmerican idea though it is too simple and effective! The people who manufacture and sell the devices will just go out of business like they should.
  • Phrack did it first (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:40PM (#7403369) Journal

    Before I ever read it on slashdot, my friends and I were hacking traffic lights thanks to phrack. It used to take me 25 minutes to get to work, but now it only takes 15 :P

    It also tells you how to get into the main traffic light control system, though you have to go through a bunch of backdoors into a VAX system. Imagine if Al-Qaeda managed to do that, though...

    http://www.phrack.org/phrack/60/p60-0x0e.txt [phrack.com]

    • I was doing some reading on this and at least the 3M version of the system uses some IR (specific freq?) and either 10,12,14Hz strobe pulse with a vehicle ID code in between. Now I'm sure most cities ONLY use this to make all red for oncoming EMS, but they do have case studies in Wash where buses, etc. had the devices to preferencially give them green lights.

      System has two channels (different IR freq?) each channel has 10 vehicle classes which each allow 1000 unique vehicle IDs. I like the comment about
  • First of all, you must understand how incredibly simple these devices are. The transmitter simply sends out pulses of IR energy at a rate of 10-14Hz (yes, Hz, not kHz or anything) depending on thier mode of operation. More advanced systems interleave data in these pulses to form identification of specific vehicles or vehicle classes. Since every intersection must be updated every time a new vehicle is equipped with a MIRT, this is often not utilized.

    The devices sold on the websites listed in other's commen
  • by C. Alan (623148) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @09:51PM (#7403443)

    As the article states, most cities and counties use the Opticon system by 3M. This system has two components, an encoded flash reciever, and a radio reciever. In order to pre-empt the light, you had to have a valid encoded flasher, and the encoded radio signal. There is no nation-wide standard for the pre-emting devices, so each locality sets up its own code. Good luck trying to us one of these black boxes to trip signals, it won't work 99.99% of the time.

    I worked on the traffic signal system in a central california town, and we had 3 different codes: 1 for fire/police, 1 for ambulances, and one for maintenance work. Each time a signal was pre-empted, it was logged at the signal control center downtown. I worked with a guy who had a maintenance encoded flasher on his truck. It was kinda fun cruising through town, never hitting a green, but we didn't do it very often.

    I think the black boxes they are selling are just for people dumb enough to think they work.
    • I think the black boxes they are selling are just for people dumb enough to think they work.

      It might be more of a real problem in some local areas. At least in the part of Maryland I'm in (and according to the printed newspaper article), a number of the intersections do switch based on this device. While there are competing systems, apparently some of them have no authentication mechanism. The detector is essentially like a remote control for the television -- blink in the right way and it trips.

      While

    • by tmortn (630092)
      Hmm if its IR and its a coded signal I would imagine either the device makes a repetitive signal or it has a derivation from its normal pulse... so all you would have to do is monitor an intersection in the IR and take note of emergency vehicles and identify the sequence of IR pulses and you will have the 'code'. As long as its IR and its just based on recieving the proper pulses and those proper pulses are blasted about something like this will be possible.... granted that kind of monitoring is non-trivial
  • Laws won't work (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gcaseye6677 (694805)
    Sure, you can ban these things. Every state will ban them if they become popular. But anyone who gets something like this is not the type of person that is concerned about laws. Think about it, who would buy one of these things? Someone who routinely ignores speed limits, tailgates, runs lights whenever possible. The prospect of paying a fine just won't deter them.
  • But now it may be played with all adults. Great, I thought kids were bad.
  • Let's hypothesize that I have one of these devices and use it to speed my journey. During that journey I pre-empt a light just before the ambulance that legitimately needs to cross the junction because it is en route to a heart attack victim. Since I got there first, presumably I win the toss (so to speak) and the light goes green for me. I get home 2 minutes early, joy! But, I delay the paramedics and the victim dies. Can the victim's relatives therefore sue me? They certainly should be able to. My
  • I recall plans to make these using a modified Radioshack strobe light in the old Anarchist's cookbook. I _almost_ talked my Dad into making one, but we ultimately decided it wasn't worth the time: we would have to sit at stoplights until an ambulance passed then videotaped their lights to get that city's strobe pattern, according to the directions.

    I had an interesting childhood...
  • In this day and age why don't we just start looking for a better solution rather than trying to outlaw these transmitters.

    Surely some sort of RFID tag could be fitted to emergency vehicles that would allow for traffic signal control without extraordinary costs. Retrofitting this new technology to the pre-existing traffic intersection control probably wouldn't be too hard either.

    Additionally this technology could be used to inform regular vehicles that there is an emergency vehicle in the area. (Provide
  • in cop cars for a long time here, and fire engines/ambulances, but ours have NEVER switched a light, the ONLY thing ours would do was extend the yellow, and prevent the opposing traffic from turning green. Even with that limited ability it plays havoc on the traffic flow and on a regular basis they had to sync the lights back to the timers down-town or traffic would gridlock. Thinking about it though once the system for over-ride is in place the means to abuse it are there as well :) reminds me of the RDS b
  • Instead of seeking a ban on the device why can't they invest in a system that works properly? Twat faces....
  • Where I live we already have enough drivers plowing through red lights. Six people are dead in the last incident that made the news.

    The last thing anyone on the roads needs is loons who can twiddle the stoplights. If someone ever hits me after using one of those things, they'd better get their lawyers lined up.

    Ban 'em and change stoplights so they don't work.
  • 1.
    A portable self-contained device to manipulate Traffic Signals.

    Not a phreak box.

    Created by Remote Control
    Date: June, 14 1988

    2.
    Old hat.
  • by Chemical (49694) <nkessler2000 AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:50PM (#7403770) Homepage
    This AP Story [sfgate.com] talks about how Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, wants to make distribution and use punishable by up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. This has quickly gone far beyond Michagin

    These things are no joke and I hope this bill gets through.

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @10:53PM (#7403787) Homepage Journal
    I came up with when I last lived in a major city. The fire department could raise money through an unconventional source, action-hungry paintball players could have a lot of fun, and dangerous drivers would receive the attention they richly deserve.

    It goes like this:

    1) Fire department installs special racks atop their fire engines. Fire department allows qualified paintball players who pay a fee (say, $100/mo. for unlimited rides) to ride along in these racks.

    2) As the engines go zooming through the city, a bottleneck appears. It seems some assmunch of a driver is refusing to get out of the way for fear of losing his precious spot in the mad dash to get to the freeway.

    3) Traffic Decency Guardians (aka TDGs) unleash a hail of accurate paintball fire at the offending motorist. The paintballs are colored bright purple, or perhaps a mixture of purple and orange. They are not water-soluble. They do mark said motorist as a complete assmunch, so other motorists are sure to treat the offender accordingly.

    4) Violations of right-of-way rules plummet. Paintballers everywhere compete for selection as TDGs. The fire department finally has enough money to get that extra ladder they've always needed. Everyone wins.

    Except the guy with purple paint all over his car. ;-)

  • by ONU CS Geek (323473) <ian@m@wilson.gmail@com> on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @11:05PM (#7403863) Homepage
    Opticom is 3M's solution for priority/preemptive right of way control--it has two modes, depending on what type of traffic you are. One is the "priority" right of way. If you're sitting at an intersection, and the light is red, and this comes up, you will get a shorter red, or a longer green light time when you're coming upon the light and it's green. This was kinda designed for public transit (e.g., buses), where idle time costs the city money in fuel.

    The next section is something called the pre-emptive right of way, where the traffic lights that are not the same path as the signal is coming from, get a red light. The reason for this, is so in case the vehicle can make a left turn without worrying about oncoming traffic.

    The system works in two parts--one's a transmitter, the other's an receiver, and the system can be set for thousands of possible codes. (for vehicle identification). the odds of something like this working, right out of the box, is very small...you'd need to get a correct code, and hope that no one notices a lot of new entries when it logs.

    There is a comapny that makes legitimate Opticom receivers, for 'testing' purposes...however, their testing eqipment is very limited. They do make handheld opticom transmitters, however, they'll only sell them to you if you're a law enforcement/governmnet agency.

  • The real problem (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OverkillTASF (670675) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @11:38PM (#7404015)
    All this talk about the cities being at fault for not designing a system that wasn't so easily "hacked"... You know what? That's not the problem. The problem is all the fucktards running around who have no regard for anyone else. The government gets to try to keep the rest of us happy due to a few idiots' actions, and it costs US money. I'm sick and tired of my tax dollars going toward the next mundane project because some script kiddies got together in daddy's garage and dedicated 2 days of their lives to perfecting a work around to the city traffic system. How the hell can you blame the cities? It's not exactly cheap to make something impenatrable to every kind of attack. There's definitely a steep curve to that, in fact. The PROBLEM is the people that buy the things, the people that manufacture the things, and every one of you 12 year old "M$ suX! Linux is t3h be57! D0wn w17h 7He gR33dY C0rP0ra7ion5!!!" fucktards who are so obsessed with the idea of anarchy and having a right to break anything that is breakable. Get a life. Grow up. And don't mess with my damn stoplights. I'm sick of paying for workarounds for your pointless and inconsiderate tampering. Get a job.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar (4328) on Wednesday November 05, 2003 @11:39PM (#7404019) Homepage Journal
    Easier solution -- with no technology.

    I can turn red traffic lights green just by staring at them. The time required varies a bit from light to light, but eventually they all bend to my whim and turn from red to green.
  • Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @12:16AM (#7404204)
    The answer to traffic is telecommuting. Immense tax breaks should be given to businesses that allow their employees to telecommute at least three days a week. There is no reason for a room full of cubicles when those people could be working from home or somewhere else so they aren't all on the freeway at 7:30AM and 5:30PM.

    Naturally, middle-management, in their rush to control everything and to expect their highly qualified and exhaustively interviewed employees to become irresponsible morons the moment they have left the room, will claim telecommuting cannot ever be approved and go on to schedule another meeting.

  • Overview (Score:4, Informative)

    by upt1me (537466) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @12:42AM (#7404321) Homepage
    Explanation of Traffic Signal Preemption (Stoplight Changing)

    The normal operation of any traffic signal controlled intersection is designed for the maximum and efficient throughput of vehicular traffic.

    Unfortunately, a common occurrence at any intersection is traffic back-up, which can require many signaling cycles to clear. Without the ability to change the operation of the traffic signals themselves, police and emergency response vehicles can also be forced to sit in traffic, thus dramatically increasing their response times to crime scenes and fire or medical emergencies.

    Furthermore, even without heavy traffic, a police or emergency response vehicle entering a traffic signal controlled intersection at a high rate of speed places all motorists (and sometimes pedestrians) at extreme risk.

    The MIRT is an optical communications system that allows equipped vehicles to alter the normal operation of traffic signals.

    An overview of a typical scenario is as follows:

    A fire truck is dispatched to an emergency.

    The fire truck is equipped with multiple emergency warning lights and a siren... The fire truck is also equipped with a preemption transmitter, which, in operation, is a high intensity forward-facing strobe light that is flashing at a rapid rate - much faster than normal attention-getting lights on the fire truck.

    When the fire truck approaches within 1,800 feet (line-of-sight) of a preemption-equipped traffic signal controlled intersection, the preemption detector (normally mounted on the cross-arm that suspends the traffic signal) "sees" the fire truck's preemption transmitter and locks onto its flashing strobe.

    Once the traffic signal "sees" the fire truck, it begins to initiate a "preemption sequence" of the actual traffic signal that is different from normal operation.

    If the fire truck already has a green light, the light will remain green. Any other direction that also has a green light (usually the opposite direction) will first get a yellow light, then red.

    When all of the other directions are then red, and the fire truck's direction is the only one that is green, the left turn arrow will illuminate (if one exists), and a brilliant white flood lamp mounted near the traffic signal will begin to flash. This flood lamp tells the driver of the fire truck that he now has control of the intersection, and complete right-of-way.

    If the fire truck has a red light, any other direction that has a green light will transition to yellow, then red. When all the directions (including the fire truck's) are red, the traffic signal facing the fire truck will then turn green, along with the left turn arrow (if one exists), and the brilliant white flood lamp will begin to flash.

    Once the fire truck has passed through the intersection, optical communication with the preemption detector (on the traffic signal) is lost. At that time the traffic signal will default back to normal operation. Conversely, until the fire truck passes through the intersection, it will have a green light, regardless of the time duration.

    If several intersections are within the 1,800 foot range of the fire truck's preemption transmitter, they will all respond accordingly to the above operational description.

  • by djupedal (584558) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @12:43AM (#7404340)
    These two geeks decided to go to lunch, and one of them volunteered to drive. They motored off, seatbelts on and laptops open. When they came to a busy intersection, geek 1, who was driving, ran the red light and didn't even flinch. Geek2 panicked and screamed, "Why'd you do that??" "Geek 1 told geek 2, "calm down...no issue...my brother drives like this and he never has any problems." Geek 2 does his best to accept this, and they continue on.

    Another few blocks, and another intersection and another red light and through they go....geek 2 remains quiet, but he's backing up his laptop to his home server, just in case.

    Next intersection and this time, the light is green....geek 1 stops. Geek 2 does a double take at the green light and asks geek 1 what he's doing "Why are you stopping?", to which geek 1 replies "Are you kidding? I'm not blowing this intersection on the green....my brother might be coming through here!"
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday November 06, 2003 @04:56AM (#7405363) Homepage
    I am presently working on a traffic tracking project that, in addition to other things, is for the purpose of tuning a city's traffic lights for efficiency.

    At many of these intersections are video camera. They can record for a variety of purposes including accidents and even ticketing. But have you ever recorded yourself with a video camera and used an infrared remote? Did you know the light from the remote is very well displayed to the camera? IT IS!! Looks like a blinking strobe! CCDs pick up light differently than the human eye, so even though we can't see it as people, the watching video cameras can potentially see you!

    The device may not be illegal, but using it might be! I'd recommend against it strongly.

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