There’s a name for that panic-inducing split second when a traffic light turns yellow and you have to choose whether to hit the gas or the brake. It’s called the “dilemma zone,” and a new radar system promises to make it a thing of the past.
TrafiRadar is a new technology from Belgium-based Traficon. It combines video and radar vehicle detection that can control a traffic light, holding a yellow until a car has crossed an intersection.
While towns that rely on revenue from red light cameras might be loath to install the new technology, it could make intersections safer for all. Currently, drivers in the dilemma zone can either slam on the brakes and risk a rear-end collision, or run a red light. TrafiRadar can determine whether a vehicle needs more time to get through an intersection before the yellow light turns red, and keep all other traffic stopped until that car has crossed.
In addition to TrafiRadar, Traficon also unveiled a new bike detection system that uses thermal cameras to detect cyclists and give them enough time to cross an intersection. VIP Bike allows cities to install dedicated turning lanes for cyclists, and can also count the number of bikes that pass through an intersection in a given period of time.
“Vulnerable road users in general, and bicyclists more specifically, just need more time than motorists to make it across the intersection,” said Traficon USA vice president Bill Klyczek. “By detecting bicyclists at signalized intersections, we can increase their green time when necessary, and as a result, make it much safer for them to make it across.”
Both systems debuted at the 117th annual International Municipal Signal Association – yep, a traffic light convention – held last week in Orlando, Florida. They’re part of an increasing trend toward intelligent transit systems (ITS), where intersections are controlled dynamically to speed traffic flow and increase safety.
Already, engineers have created an algorithm that can predict which drivers will run red lights. The next step is developing cars that can communicate with intelligent infrastructure and one another via local Wi-Fi networks. Such systems, already in trials, lets traffic signals determine in real time how many cars are trying to pass through an intersection, and warn drivers of hazards ahead.