Red Dot design award for progress-bar traffic light
Last year, precisely - November 2008, I wrote about traffic lights with progress bars that would visually signalize how much time there is until the switch from green to red (or vice versa).
Recently, an idea about progress bar traffic light got a Red Dot design award for safety and ecology. You can read about it here:
I am quite willing to accept the fact that more than one person can think of an idea at the same time in the world, after all, there is over 6 billion of us chillin' on this planet.
I am also quite willing to accept the fact that on Relogik site, only the traffic light concept has a little disclaimer under Project info saying: "Date:Apr, 2009 (initial sketch: 2006)", clearly stating, for just that one project, that they thought of this at 2006. All other design ideas are, I guess, an instant thoughts that get thought of, concepted, visualized and created in the same day and do not need further disclaimers. But I digress.
What I absolutely cannot accept is the fact that such traffic light is NEITHER SAFE OR ECOLOGICAL.
Let me elaborate on Ecology part, it is simpler:
The project proposes that people should turn off their car engines when they see there is a lot to wait at the red light. I call bullshit. First of all, turning off your engine just to restart it again after 30 seconds is not that much of a save. Most modern engines are very ecological when idling. Googling just a little on this subject you can get a good read. I recomend this article on Slate about turning engine off.
But what is probably the biggest point why NOT to turn the engine off is the fact that a car with engine off does not have power steering and power breaking and on most cars - airbags will not deploy. Let me repeat that for you: if you get hit by a truck with your engine turned off, your airbags will most likely NOT deploy. You will not be able to steer, and your breaking power will be minimal. This is why in most countries turning your engine off on public roads is ILLEGAL. So, thanks, I will just keep my engine running.
Also, the wear and tear of your car's starting system and battery will in the end produce more carbon output than if you just keep the engine running. If you have to replace your battery sooner than regular - you have just polluted the world A LOT.
Second point, the Safety.
By showing timer, this concept gives drivers an ability to predict and speculate how fast they can go. Imagine this scenario; you turn around the corner onto the main street, and 50 meters in front of you is a red light with progress bar almost empty (meaning it will be green soon). What do you do? You speed up knowing that the red light will go off soon and that most likely you will pass that intersection at green. The words "most likely" are the catch. Because you could as well misjudge the timing and distance and cause crash.
The more you give to the drivers to speculate and calculate the more accidents there are on the streets. As simple as that.
On the other hand, the traffic lights already have timer, it is called: yellow light. It acts as a progress bar - it tells you that pretty soon the red will turn to green. And, if you are an experienced driver, you know that most intersection related crashes are directly linked to the yellow light speeding cars (be it yellow going to green, or yellow going to red). This is a clear indicator that even a simple progress bar, represented by yellow light, is obviously problematic. Giving more flexibility in misjudging time would just cause more accidents.
Furthermore, the signalization in modern cities is not done by "stupid" fixed-time traffic lights, but by smart traffic light systems that change the timings according to traffic load. The system can determine that the traffic load is low and can instantly switch to green light - rendering the timer useless.
Institute of Transportation Engineers
If anyone had any doubts, there are institutes all over the world that devote their full time on research of public signalization. It's not like someone invented traffic lights back-in-the-day and now noone is looking further into development of signalization. There are people who work on this 24/7 and if they did not conclude that progress bar traffic light is good, I believe that stands for something.