• Nov 20, 2010

Designer Thanva Tivawong has come up with a solution for all you impatient drivers out there. What if you knew exactly when a stoplight was going to change from green to yellow, or more importantly, from red to green? In theory, traffic would be expedited and drivers would be less likely to try to beat yellow lights in the rush to make good time. That's exactly the logic behind the hourglass stoplight concept you see above. As time soldiers on, the pixels in the light drain from top to bottom. When time's up, the light changes color and the process starts all over again.

There are a couple of problems with this notion. First, colorblind drivers are left completely in the cold. More importantly, we're also concerned about the idea of basically turning every intersection into a drag strip, complete with fully-functional Christmas trees. It'd be great for the street racing scene, sure, but we don't want to give the granny in the lane next to us an excuse to lay down her best ETA when the light goes green.

[Source: Engadget]


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  • 56 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
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      • 4 Years Ago
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      • 4 Years Ago
      Hey, everything brings it's goods and bads. But this idea of lights serving as dragstrips just perception if you ask me. i say try it out on a small scale then we'll see.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Freeway on ramp lights in southern CA turn green on both lanes at the same time. I've seen and participated in a number of drag races to beat the other car onto the freeway. It's worse for two people who have two cars that look fast that pull up together.

        In other states the on ramp lights alternate one lane to the next, reducing the urge to race your neighbor to the freeway.

        Either way, I don't care, but this idea above is awesome, too bad we'll never see it...Although I think it would lead to safer intersections/roads as people would know exactly when to be ready etc. instead of reaching for crap or being distracted when lights changed.
        • 4 Years Ago
        In most metropolitan areas, the crosswalks work automatically in parallel with traffic flow, thus having a similar "drag strip" effect as the hour glass concept. The parallel crosswalks counts down the time left on your green light, while the perpendicular crosswalks countdown the time left until your red light turns green. The parallel crosswalks have the most use for me, in that I can decide whether to speed up to make the light or just relax and begin a mellow deceleration in preparation of not making the light. Most drivers are not interested in "drag stripe" racing considering the heavy consequences.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Oh and one more thing, about the clor blind people....in the concept is the plan to keep a single light frame that changes colours or will it be a set of 3s like the regular ones? cuz if they keep the set of threes, there should be no problem, unless im misunderstanding something......
      • 4 Years Ago
      We already have this in a much simpler format..... watch the pedestrian lights at intersections. When they start blinking the don't walk symbol the light will soon turn red. I learned this in drivers education in the 80's. It still holds true in my town.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Good concept.

      For non-street racing purposes, would work better as just one sand hour glass icon. It'll be good for those color blind people.

      It'll be simple. GO is when the top is completely full. YELLOW is when the numbers are counting down. STOP is when the bottom is completely full and an X is at the top.The transition from STOP to GO would always be delayed variably.

      There is no need to count down from STOP-to-GO because I think that would just encourage running lights.
      • 4 Years Ago
      All major cities in Romania have timed traffic lights for some time now :) it's not like this hourglass idea, it's just a green/red countdoun timer mounted atop a regular red/orange/green traffic light. Btw, pedestrians have the same things for their walk/ don't walk lights
      • 4 Years Ago
      As was mentioned above, China has a very simple timer system that works great. Next to the normal red-yellow-green light, there's a big LED timer that counts down until the next light change. It's great because you can just put the car in park if it's a long delay, and you don't have to stare at the light the whole time waiting for it to change. Also when you're approaching a red you know if you should slow down, speed up, or whatever, depending on the time left. We need this in the US!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Until sometime in the 1980s, traffic lights in the City of Pittsburgh (but not the surrounding areas) were on a cycle of green, green and yellow together, yellow, red. Adding the green+yellow state gave approaching drivers a better idea whether they could get through based on their distance. But it confused people who were not from the area.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @IdreamAudi: I would agree with you that most European drivers are *better* drivers, but I wouldn't necessarily say they are *safer* drivers, as I have seen some absolutely risky moves being pulled by European drivers, about on par with some of the ridiculously stupid risky things I've seen some American drivers do. Aside from that, I would say the driving environment in Europe is safer, primarily because the European drivers are better educated and appear to be much more aware of whats going on around them.

        Agree too with the lack of punishment for driving violations in the US. I think part of it comes from this feeling that you can't survive in this country without a car, and by that notion, taking someone's license away is likened to life in jail, even though said person will probably just drive without a license anyway...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Bend, Oregon has been installing roundabouts all over town. They work really well for handling traffic in a smooth, flowing fashion, but it definitely confuses people who are not from the area!

        Just visited Iceland; their traffic lights are just like Germany (while red, the yellow light turns on briefly before the signal changes to green). They also rarely use Stop signs. Instead of Stops, they typically use Yields. At an intersection, one street is designated dominant and all the others have yields. This was especially nice out in the countryside; from a side road intersecting a highway, if it was clear, you could cross it or merge right on without stopping. They also like roundabouts, so I felt right at home!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I thought about this concept just yesterday. With completely different ramifications than a drag strip, I imagined that something like this would allow some to feel comfortable turning off their engine at long stops instead of idling since they'd have a visual queue of when they're about to have to go.
      • 4 Years Ago
      China has large timer displays next to the signals that countdown to the next change.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ S R Ravi

        Are people in India obeying traffic lights these days? Last time I was there I noticed that most viewed red lights as "optional." They seemed to only obey the intersections controlled by a traffic policeman/policewoman.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yes, this seems as the most sensible solution, here in India, too, we have timer that shows the time taken for the light to go green. The above is just a design exercise
        • 4 Years Ago
        They appear in many places around Europe. Is the US the only country without them? Weird.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ Rimshot

        I would guess, because the effects of these systems are marginal at best. I'm from the United States, and work in Germany, and I'm in both countries yearly. There is no noticable difference between the systems other than the gee whiz factor.

        The problem is driver inattention while sitting and waiting, which is a human problem, not a country specific problem. If you aren't paying attention at an intersection, anything short of a loud noise isn't going to make you notice the light turns green, countdown or not.
        • 4 Years Ago
        yeah I've seen those too. Much easier seeing the counter than trying to sneak a peek at the other stoplights.
      • 4 Years Ago
      that is good lights.......... but it is not suitable for colorblind people.
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