America’s first electric traffic signal was installed on the corner of Euclid and East 105th Street in Cleveland Ohio, on August 5th, 1914. Prior to that, traffic was controlled by stone semaphores actuated by prehistoric birds. This is a fact I learned as a kid from watching the Flintstones.
Traffic signals have changed dramatically since those early days – no more birds – and in the modern era they have been pretty much unified as a trio of lights – red, yellow, and green, that define your actions at the intersection. That has not changed much since that iteration’s inception, back in the early 1920s. One recent improvement has been the addition of a countdown pedestrian light, but according to analysis of their use, they tend to make intersections more dangerous for drivers, while making them safer for hoofers.
Aside from that, and the switch to less energy-hogging lighting sources, the traffic light is today pretty much as it was at its inception. That of course doesn’t mean that it can’t stand improvement. What I want from you today is your cutting edge ideas on ways to improve the automated intersection authorities. Do you think that the age-old standard of red. yellow and green needs a palette update? Or, is there some other aspect of intersection management that you think could stand improvement? How exactly would you improve traffic signals?