July 30, 2007 Researchers from the Transportation Research Institute at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a "smart" traffic sign that helps drivers make correct decisions and avoid collisions at traffic intersections that lack traffic signals.
The device consists of two cameras mounted on a pole at the intersection - one facing the main road and the other the secondary road. A computer located below constantly processes data it receives from the cameras. When a collision risk is identified, flashing lights on two yield signs at the intersection are activated to alert approaching drivers.
According to system developer Dr. Yotam Abramson, accidents at intersections without traffic lights occur when drivers coming from the secondary road do not notice the traffic sign and are not aware that they do not have the right of way. Another cause of accidents can is when drivers notice the traffic sign but do not correctly internalize the information.
"In both cases, the driver makes the incorrect decision," says Abramson. "The assumption is that the flashing light will draw the driver's attention to the sign and increase his alertness."
The device is currently being tested at a four-way urban intersection in Tel Aviv. The intersection has limited visibility and high-speed access from the main road, and differentiating between the main road and the secondary road is difficult. At such intersections, drivers do not have an intuitive understanding of right of way, which makes noticing and understanding the signs even more critical.
The researchers believe the device will reduce accidents and near-accidents at the intersection, without impeding traffic flow on the main road.
They are also working on a "smart" traffic light activated when it identifies a driver who is about to cross an intersection against a red light. In such a case, the light will either flash or delay the green light in the other direction. According to Abramson, the system would also serve as a traffic violation camera.
"We are developing a 'smart infrastructure' that integrates computers and mechanization with transportation systems," says Transportation Research Institute head Prof. David Mahalel.
The National Transportation Safety Authority is financing the research, with assistance from the Tel Aviv transportation division.
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