Stop at the Red Light

I have been vaccinated as have most Americans, and I feel it is now safe to begin traveling again.  During the holiday weekend, I ventured out for a drive to the beach in my neighborhood and rediscovered an old pet peeve in the spirit of public safety.

Have you ever driven on an early morning and just sat, waiting for the traffic light to change?  You wait, and wait, observing in utter frustration the absence of traffic – because nobody else is yet driving.  Still, you must sit in your idling car, wasting gas and time, waiting for the light to turn green. There must be a better way! But, the traffic light was invented for public safety.

Who Invented the Red, Yellow, and Green Light, Anyway?

Widely believed to have been installed in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio, was the first electric traffic signal, that featured only red and green lights. It wasn’t until 1920, that Detroit police officer, Willaim Potts, was said to have invented the three-color traffic light, to improve public safety.

I have always believed that Garret Morgan, a prolific African- American inventor, invented the three-position traffic signal in 1923. Everyone seems to agree that his traffic light was the first to include the yellow warning light. In fact, his original prototype is on display at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum.

Historians continue to debate the exact year and location of the traffic signal,” numero uno”. While the traffic signal has not changed much in the past 100 years, it has evolved over time.  In the movie “The Italian Job”, Michael Caine and his criminal gang, were able to override the traffic control center in Turin, Italy. In 1969, before the internet, at least if we believe the movie, the traffic control center consisted of cameras, and telephone lines. The traffic volume was predicted automatically, and the traffic lights changed accordingly. In “The Italian Job”, the bad guys were able to hack the system and make a clean getaway with the loot, catching all the green lights while the rest of the city was stuck at red lights.  

“The Italian Job” to “The Israeli Job”

Meanwhile, located in Palo Alto, California, is an Israeli-owned company, ‘NoTraffic‘, which claims to be the world’s first autonomous traffic management platform. Their website states:

   “NoTraffic digitizes road infrastructure management, allowing cities to manage their entire grid at the push of a button. ‘Plug & Play AI (artificial intelligence) sensors provide human-eye-level measurement of approaching road users. Essential data of all road users is streamed to the cloud in real-time for additional processing. The platform then operates autonomously to reduce delay time by optimizing traffic signals at the city grid level.”

Tal Kreisler, NoTraffic CEO, says; “99% of the traffic lights in the world are not reacting in real time.”

NoTraffic, has installed AI sensors in pilot programs in Arizona and California. Each fully connected intersection can cost up to $20,000. However, Tom Cooper, a VP at NoTraffic claims that the existing, traditional traffic lights, costs…” up to $25,000 per intersection for just detection cameras that can do little more than say, ‘yes there is traffic or no there isn’t’. The outdated systems require expensive communication networks, and they are vulnerable to false detections, or worse, no detections, in bad weather and other challenging conditions.”

GrantWatch Sees the Vitality in Public Safety Program Grants

The U.S. Department of Transportation has the “Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program”, which has to date funded 16,000 projects. State and Municipal governments are also starting to invest in this new cloud-based traffic system. Meanwhile, my Sunday morning drives are starting to look more enjoyable, just knowing that help is on the way…

Improving public safety is an ongoing process that requires observations, insight, and investment. There is a grant from the United States Department of Transportation dedicated to National Infrastructure Investments. Visit the GrantWatch FAQs page to learn more about how to find grants in your area.

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