back to article Boffin's bot spots red light jumpers before they kill

A team at MIT has developed a computer algorithm that claims to predict which cars will run a red light at traffic intersections. The system, developed at the MIT Aerospace Controls Laboratory, uses cameras to track a car’s progress towards a red light, matching its speed, deceleration, and road position, and then predicts …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They could just install roundabouts!

    1. easyk

      roundabouts suck

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Have some of those directional tyre shredders pop out of the road when the light is red.

      If that doesn't work, pop-up bollards strong enough to stop a 44000kg vehicle going at 70mph should solve the problem once and for all.

    3. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Yes, because lord knows those fucking things don't cause traffic problems.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Instead ...

    How about mandating actual driver training?

    One of the best courses I ever attended was Bondurant's "Defensive Street Driving" ... It has probably saved me from serious injury on a dozen or more occasions over the last thirty years, on two or more wheels.

    1. Goat Jam

      Sadly, no

      The trouble is that a significant part of the problem is driver attitude, and i've found that the sort of person who drives like this is generally impervious to training or any sort of appeal to common sense.

      Drivers are either plain and simple arseholes or have a vastly inflated opinion of their own ability behind the wheel.

      I have yet to meet a person who does not feel that they are the Worlds Greatest Driver.

      1. Debe

        Worlds Greatest Driver

        But… I AM the world’s greatest driver. Other drives honk their horns at me in celebration of my awesomeness, a fanfare to the Lord of the Roads!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          WOW, a real life penis on legs!

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        @Goat Jam

        "I have yet to meet a person who does not feel that they are the Worlds Greatest Driver." Well, we haven't met, but you now know of one. I know that I am merely competent and ready for some refresher courses (more than 25 years since I passed my test). At the same time, I know that my "merely competent" is better than a lot of others (who: use moving vehicle as extension of dining-room/bathroom/lounge; don't use mirrors before manoeuvres; do not travel at an appropriate speed for the conditions etc).

  3. Bill Neal
    Big Brother


    Thoughtcrime or pre-crime?

    1. Anonymous Cowerd

      I predict

      that it will simply be used to automate traffic photos and raise money, rather than to help other drivers.

      (The 15% not jumping the lights will simply either mistakenly pay the fine or win on appeal.)

      1. Anonymous Coward


        There already exists a system that can penalise drivers who break the law by ignoring traffic signals. It's called a 'red light camera' it's far simpler and cheaper than this system and is also considerably more reliable. They usually use straightforward pressure sensors in the road just like the ones on the approach that actually control the light sequence.

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      Pre-crime. The software is trying to identify people who *actually* are going to run the light, and some people run red lights accidentally. Thoughtcrime would be catching them if they thought about running it, whether or not they actually did.

  4. Craig 2

    Traffic lights are just another example of a rule that an increasing number of drivers consider "optional". Just like indicating, speed limits, due care and all sorts of other "me me me" behaviour. It's part of the wider erosion of consideration for our fellow human beings, and cars bring out the worst of that mentality.

    1. despairing citizen
      Big Brother

      no enforcement = optionality

      due to a lack of traffic patrols, every driver in the UK knows that you are unlikely to get pulled over if you break the RTA or highway code.

      therefore, compliance is down to each driver's personal ethics.

      unfortunately there are an increasing number of kididiots (the ones with the clown cars, e.g. massive "spoiler" fitted to the back of a front wheel drive small car, etc.), driving like demented chimps on LSD, that have apprently no conception of personal responsibility for their driving behaviour.

      If we want safer roads, then we need to have real police officers out on the road patroling in marked cars. this will improve the standard of compliance, hence safety, massively.

      the other group that add to the death rate are the OAP's, particularly the ones that refuse to wear their glasses to drive. They can't see the traffic light, hence don't stop. Mandated eye test certificates, to be brought with your mot and insurance for the car tax, would probably save 1 in 4 of the people currently killed on our roads.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        re: no enforcement = optionality

        Maybe this would work?

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        @despairing citizen

        Since the thumbs up system doesn't seem to be working, have another one here!

      3. CD001

        I seriously doubt there is an increasing number of kidiots ... it was the XR3i (Kevscort) when I was a teenager (often a 1.6 with spoiler - heh I doubt there's a teenager alive now who could get insurance on a 1.6i).

        "... driving like demented chimps on LSD, that have apprently no conception of personal responsibility for their driving behaviour."

        When has that ever _not_ been the case? I'd say the same of most Audi drivers. Driving ability hasn't drastically gotten worse in recent years but there are more cars on the roads... and therefore more idiots whatever the age or gender.

        If you want safe roads - you need to remove the fallible organic component from behind the wheel.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Everything is worse today

          @CD001: Agreed - before I believe that "an increasing number of drivers" (at least relative to the total number) are scofflaws who cheerfully run reds, I'd want to see some actual data.

          Specific technology aside, rants about declining standards are as old as the historical record - and no doubt older; we just don't have any evidence for them. But no doubt someone at Lascaux complained that this new artist wasn't a patch on the cave painters of *his* day.

          In the US, traffic accidents per population have been dropping in recent years. Pedestrian accidents are up, on the other hand. (The data don't indicate why; distraction seems a likely candidate, but currently local authorities aren't required to report whether victims were, say, using a mobile phone at the time.) Are we to conclude that people aren't walking as well as they used to?

    2. Neiljohnuk

      It doesn't help that councils seem to install them almost on a whim, slowing traffic that once flowed to a stand-still. Southampton City Council's traffic lights were turned off (with warning signs) a few years ago and traffic flow improved, then they installed the 'go slow mode', to be used when traffic diverts from the M27 due to accidents etc, its aim is to put drivers off ever entering the City again when the motorways stuffed, a 10 minute journey becomes a 45 minute ordeal...

      And a lot of red light jumpers do it because they know the system has extra dwell time before giving the green to another direction, because of red light jumpers!

      Then there are the bus drivers, who already have the advantage of advanced/fast flow trigger units on the buses (AKA green-wave) that on seeing any other light change start off, often crossing the STOP line whilst the lights are still red, whilst others are still clearing the junction.

      The arsehole factor also applies.

  5. Kugutsu

    or you could stop the light jumping...

    If its going to be installed on cars, why not have it wired to cut the engine/engage the brakes of the car of the light-jumper? Rather than rely on potential victims being quick enough on the uptake to dodge... Having their car come to an emergency stop all of a sudden might even make the w*ankers wake up and realise what they are doing.

    1. Al Jones

      The detector isn't going to be installed in cars. If the junction is equipped to detect red light jumpers, it can notify "smart" cars in the vicinity to watch out.

      Stopping the jumper's car might seem like a good idea, until they sue you when they get rear-ended because their car stopped under your control.

      1. Danny 14


        or cuts out because you were pulling forwards to get out of the way of the ambulance.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        How about just taking a high resolution photo of the car which passes the light on red and submitting the details to the traffic police?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Traffic signal cameras already exist, and because of "lack of money", 1/2 dont work.

          Bring back the cane and/or the birch. Corporal punishment for offenders might just do the trick.

          You'd think twice if the punishment was public humiliation and derision.

        2. David Barrett

          If you read the article you would see that the result of this would be 700 High res images of a smashed car with dead people in it...

  6. Alister

    Never mind warning other drivers...

    Just make it so it stops the car and preferably ejects the idiot.

    1. David Barrett

      Its not going to be retro fitted to all cars... So it will do little to stop some knob in an h reg astra ploughing into the side of me.. Unless its fitted to my car and warns me in advance that there is a knob on the loose...

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        @David Barrett: "So it will do little to stop some knob in an h reg astra ploughing into the side of me.. Unless its fitted to my car and warns me in advance that there is a knob on the loose".

        Yes, that is the proposal. The system would watch vehicles approaching the intersection, determine if there was a high probability that one would not yield to the light, and send a signal that would let other suitably-equipped cars notify their drivers.

        In practice, it would no doubt be picked up by the problem vehicle (if so equipped) too - which is a good thing, since the driver may be distracted, asleep, or otherwise in a position to be notified and rectify the problem.

        And, actually, there's no need to add anything to vehicles. The authors talk about a HUD or other fancy driver-warning mechanism; but the system could just notify drivers approaching the green light by, say, blinking the yellow as well, or something similar. (An audible alarm might be a good idea too.) It could all be done in the traffic-light mechanism.

    2. Northern Fop

      This *is* the 21st century

      Surely some sort of automated drone strike would be the right way to go.

  7. Blofeld's Cat


    You could just look at the traffic situation ahead, rather than rely on a bot to warn you.

    It used to be called "anticipating the actions of other motorists".

    "The bot didn't warn me" is not going to look good on an insurance claim.

    1. Turtle

      aka. . .

      "It used to be called "anticipating the actions of other motorists"."

      Also known as "defensive driving" here in the States.

      1. BenR

        It used to be known simply as 'driving' in the UK, but sadly no longer.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      "Just looking" is not equivalent

      The system potentially has significantly more information available to it than you do as a driver approaching the intersection. It may well have better visibility down the crossing street, for example, thanks to the higher position of the camera. And it only has to collect data on the movement of vehicles approaching the intersection; unlike you, it doesn't have to worry about driving one.

      A system like this could also be networked, and so could know that vehicle X approaching intersection A has already run through a red light at intersection B - something that's probably not visible to you approaching A from the orthogonal direction, but is a strong indicator of likely behavior of X at B.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    too complicated; not enough benefit

    Honestly using so much technology to save 350 lives a year is not enough of a return on investment.

    ac to protect my reputation as a carring person.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      however, add in an ANPR system with automatic ticketing, and the thing either pays for itself, or solves/reduces the problem. They would have to be pretty widespread to have much of an effect though.

      at the very least, the amount of money it may save in repairs after non-fatal accidents should be factored in...

  9. Sheriff Lobo

    Why add another distraction to the car itself. If the sensor is going to be attached to the lights or lightposts themselves why wouldn't you just delay changing the light to green for the cross traffic. No extra HUD to distract a driver and the sensor can change the lights themselves when it's safe to proceed.

    Rocket Science!!

    1. Goat Jam
      Paris Hilton


      "delay changing the light to green for the cross traffic"

      What could possibly go wrong with that idea?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Problem 1. Some people will think its fun to fool the predictive software, by braking at the last moment, so that it inconveniences those with it installed.

    Problem 2. The number of prats who jump lights will increase because, in their tiny mind, it will be safer due to other cars being warned about them.

    Problem 3. It will encourage people with it installed to be less aware of their surroundings and hence more negligent of what is happening on the road.

    Personally, I'd rather depend on my own senses.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Spot on !

      Brilliant analysis, sir !

      Have a pint on me !

  11. disgruntled yank Silver badge


    This way you train the red-light runners that new and improved cars will make way for them.

    1. David Barrett

      As opposed to "training them" by letting them run into the side of crossing cars?

      Id much rather if they were going to do it that I had some way of knowing about it in advance...

  12. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Just let the computer drive

    Driving in modern cities is a nightmare waiting to happen. Expectations of getting from A to B are unrealisitic if there is any appreciable traffic density. This induces stress in drivers and increases the chances of accidents, even in those with lots of experience and training. I think there must be sufficient data from warehouse robots by now to be fairly sure that with fairly low max speed limits, they would be better drivers than *most* of us. When it comes to road safety you have to plan for the biggest fucking idiot out there.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      @Charlie Clark

      When it comes to road safety you have to keep the biggest fucking idiot out of a driver's seat. Just how to do this before something terrible happened I don't know.

  13. Entropiated

    If computers are so damn smart...

    Then maybe we should just let them drive and busy ourselves by getting falling down drunk in the back seat!

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge

      I am intrigued by your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  14. Eric Hood

    Would this not just enable the jumpers even further knowing other people will be told not to enter the intersection it will make it safer for them?

    Much like airbags encouraged people to drive faster as they were better protected.

  15. No such thing as an Anonymous Coward

    It’s bad enough people follow GPS directions right into rivers.

    Now we can look forward to even more “brains left at home” situations in the future.

    Simpler solution (along the lines of some IT qualifications e.g. Cisco) would be to make it mandatory for everyone, to retake their tests every 5 years.

    1. Denarius

      you mean like pilots ?

      aeronautical types, especially professionals have to do competence tests annually or more often if in big jets.

      Might be "interesting" to do this with car drivers. Given that killing someone with a vehicle has usually been treated as a minor offense, one could also make killing with a vehicle the same legal offense as a casual thrill killing. Might re-associate crime and punishment..

      OTOH, given the rise of the surveilance state, how about every car has a days driving record pulled from its car management system at random times, say twice a year and sent to a driving forensics lab? Indicators of bad behaviour or poor skills would trigger a covert driving assessment. Much like what is happening now with the self righeous installing cams in their cars so they can log other drivers. Yes, that twit wandering over the road as they move the camera to film someone 10kmh over the limit passing said twat driving 20 kmh under the limit.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        black box safety

        interestingly the germans put black boxes into police cars a few years back, and found that the number of acidents involving police cars dropped suddenly.

        a more recent report can be found here;

    2. Stephen 2

      How long before

      How long before we see stories of people slamming on their brakes and getting hit from the rear, all because their car told them that someone at the intersection ahead was about to the jump the red light. And then guess what, the guy ahead didn't even jump the red light!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > people slamming on their brakes and getting hit from the rear

        The driver of the car behind should have anticipated the possibility of someone stopping at an intersection and should have left sufficient room to come to a halt safely.

        99.999% of the time when you get rear-ended it is the fuckwit at the back who is to blame.

  16. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Another solution

    A Vehicle Lateral Defense System. Specifically, side-facing RPGs mounted with radar detectors designed to detect oncoming collision and stop the oncoming threat - permanently.

    I dare say that would put an end to light-runners very quickly.

    Hmm ? What is that you say ? Immoral ? Because being broadsided by some twat who thought the rules didn't apply to him is moral ?

    Bah. No wonder civilization is grinding to a halt. In my time ..... <grumble><grumble><grumble>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Want one on my bike

      Range sensor + nail gun, connected to bike computer so that if any twunt passes within 1m of me when I'm going over 10mph they get a nail in their door panel. Very tempting. . .

  17. Tony W


    Sorry, 85% right is just not good enough. Unless there is a high proportion of jumpers in the traffic, most of the positives will be false.

  18. Martin Usher

    Proceed with Caution

    Red lights are a problem in the US because there's no Red/Yellow phase on signals and the green is usually switched on at the same time as the other direction's red. If you just gun it on the green without looking first you're likely to get clobbered by someone who's trying to beat the yellow. We've recently discovered that waiting a second or two before setting the green reduces accidents -- its not as spiffy as a predictive red light warning system but it certainly works.

    (If we really want to deter red light jumping then maybe we should install the in-road barriers that are used at Russian railroad crossings.)

    BTW -- The official designation of the green signal in the UK is "Proceed with caution".... it really implies that you should look before entering an intersection, not barrel across trusting to the good behavior of people waiting on the red. If you ride motorcycles you very quickly learn to do this....

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "... green signal in the UK is "Proceed with caution""

      Yes. There are several traffic-light controlled junctions I use - mainly roundabouts with traffic lights (yes, non-UK drivers, we have such things) - where I never proceed on green until I have checked whether it actually *is* safe to do so, regardless of the person with the itchy horn-finger behind me.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It's not much better in the UK in my opinion.

      I believe the amber light according to the highway code means you should be prepared to stop unless past the white line or if stopping would cause a collision.

      The reality is often but not always the amber light is so short that if you attempted to stop it would almost guarantee a rear end collision even when travelling significantly lower than the speed limit. I remember when I was doing my driving lessons many years ago this always felt a very dangerous way of driving as you'd almost always end up with a car almost going into you.

      While I in no way advocate trying to race the red light I do think the current system needs a careful balancing of the amber light.

      On the railways the amber light is actually set further back than the red green lights giving the driver a longer period in which to stop. On the continent I seem to remember the amber flashing before going constant to give the driver more indication of the fact the lights are going to go red.

    3. John Sturdy

      I haven't seen the Russian ones, but here's a system in the US -- unfortunately only plastic posts, though:

  19. JeffyPooh

    85 per cent accuracy

    Worse than one-in-six false positive rate. That's a major FAIL.

    That rate makes the technique more-or-less useless, if not in fact actively harmful.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Wrong, in fact you fail

      Actually, 1/6 = 0.16

      15 < 16

    2. Danny 14


      its not too bad for a "warning". Nothing actually happens apart from an alert to make you perk up to a possible danger.

      No worse than signs that say "deer" on them or "falling rocks".

    3. Daniel 4

      Just needs to reliably save you 50% to be marketable

      Actually, I think that if almost five out of six times a certain light went on on my dashboard a car jumped the red, I for one would pay it plenty of attention. Granted, I would rather save the money and drive for myself as of yet, but I wouldn't brush this off as useless.


  20. Turtle

    How about this:

    Sadly, as already suggested by several commenters, I think that there is a certain element that will indeed take this technology as a way for them to drive even more aggressively.

    I would think that with RFID tags in all automobiles, and the appropriate technology at every traffic light, it should be quite feasible to automatically record every automobile that runs a red light - making it easy to levy a fine, or suspend the driver's license, or revoke the right of that particular vehicle to be on a public road, or any combination of the foregoing.

    I would think that this would in the long run be much effective.

    (Whether the problem is so bad that it would make sense to invest the funds needed to realize it, is a different matter entirely.)

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Existing Tech?

      People hate them but cameras at junctions perform the same function and require no modification to the cars and are already in use.

      The only way to enforce a law is to make it not worth the risk of breaking it, if most junctions had red light cameras the incidence of jumping would diminish.

      If the cameras are too expensive for all junctions put empty boxes on every junction and move a few cameras around so drivers won’t know if there is one or not.

      The point is that there is existing and proven technology for detecting this behaviour and an existing method to prosecute the offenders which would seem a better and probably cheaper approach.

    2. dv

      Well... for your police state maybe...

      Sometimes, a situation occurs at the traffic light that it's safer to "run red" than to brake and decelerate rapidly. For example, frost on the road and higher-speed heavy traffic. Would you want to levy fines for a markedly safer driving?

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Your example,

        seems to me that you were approaching the light too fast in the first place. You should always be prepared for the light changing as you approach. Advanced drivers will also consider that the yellow lamp may be busted and you go straight to red.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It is the law to observe traffic signals, for safety reasons.

        If the driver anticipates road conditions around and ahead of him/her competently, such incidences should rarely arise.

        In extenuating circumstances one should use the established appeals procedure.

        Most people will realise considerable benefit from taking an advanced driving course. Based on your comment it would seem you are an ideal candidate. I would recommend you look up the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) - unless of course you honestly believe you are the only driver in the world with no room for improvement.

  21. Allan George Dyer

    Expect pedestrian fatalities to rise...

    Near misses (and accidents) encourage bad drivers to be more careful. This system reduces the number of near misses with cars, reducing the corrective stimulus, so the bad drivers get worse. The impact is felt (literally, and rather unpleasantly) by road users without the warning system: pedestrians.

    Brilliant idea: reward bad driving!

  22. Rombizio

    An easier solution....

    ....would be to suspend the driver's license of the offender, even if he doesn't kill someone. Start with 1 year on first offense and increase by 5 years every time he does it again. After the first half-dozen get their licenses suspended, the rest will stop doing it. Of course, if they kill someone, that is murder and deserves a much worse punishment (though not all of them are actually properly punished nowadays).

    1. David Barrett

      Yeah, because banning people for speeding put a stop to that didnt it?

      The very fact that you can get a ban for driving without a licence should tell you all you need to know about the kinds of drivers that we are talking about here.

  23. tfewster

    Fixing the wrong problem?

    Instead of predicting an event & warning everyone who may be listening, install cameras that snap anyone who HAS run the red light? Then fine them and/or remove their licen[sc]e if you can identify the driver. Result: The risks are removed from the road rather than cotton-wool wrapping everyone else.

    I may have missed something in this boffinry. Feel free to enlighten me.

    1. Just Thinking

      Jumping a red light is pretty idiotic, worst case you could be hit side on by another vehicle at speed (anticipated the light change and didn't bother braking) which will probably leave you brain damaged.

      So you have to assume the people doing it don't think too much about consequences. So if they have a licence in the first place there is nothing to say they will stop driving when you take it away. And if by some chance they happen to have insurance, they most certainly won't have when they become an unlicensed driver.

      Crush the car. If they can do that for parking offences they can sure as hell do it for seriously dangerous driving. Reduces congestion, increases the use of public transport, and boosts the economy when they have saved up to buy a new one.

      Or you could shoot them, in front of their family.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Is it really so bad in the USA

    That people cannot drive resposibly under their own volition without some officious piece of technology ouroporting to making their lives even easier!!!

    I cant wait to see the first court action brought about by some muppet who though that the phrase "Will inform the driver of an approaching cross-roads" meant "Will inform, navigate and then carry on driving you home without any interaction from you".

    Fors gawds sake, the good lord (or other deity) gave you occular input sensors!

    Fucking use them!!!!!!

  25. Nick 10


    Why not just get the traffic lights to raise a large barrier of spikes when the lights turn red. Red light runners will then be faced with the choice of stop, or impale themselves on a large bed of spikes. There may be a few incidents until people get it into their heads that driving needs consideration for others and your full attention, rather than concentrating on sending a text to your mates. Call it natural selection.

    Obviously, it'd mean that emergency services vehicles, who are allowed to treat red lights as give way signs when using lights and sirens, would need some form of controller to lower the barriers when they are on a shout.

  26. CowardlyAndrew

    I guess the system might be useful to those who see a green light and go, but you learn to look and assess what other vehicles are doing.

    1. There may be a mad driver who does not care about red lights

    2. Pedestrians who are crossing slowly

    3. Emergency vehicle

    4. Shuttle Astronaut wearing a nappy in a rush to confront a cheating lover

    BTW reason roundabouts don't work in the US is that the sloppy suspension means if you went around at 30 mph you'd probably fish tail.

  27. Rob Quinn

    Why not have a system similar to speed cameras, turn them on facing the crossing when the light turns red so to record anyone going through the red light and giving them a fine, points or a driving awarenes course.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    4 seconds between Amber and Red in the UK...

    While much of the rest of the world has adopted 'countdown' lights so motorists can judge their speed properly when approaching lights, not to mention save fuel/reduce greenhouse/reduce stress/avoid sudden braking

    1. Sooty

      You do realise that amber also means stop don't you? Well it means stop unless it isn't safe to do so. By the time the light turns red, you shouldn't be doing any sudden braking... unless you were tying to run the amber and misjudged it.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    some type of heads-up display for the driver

    Whats wrong with using that big glass screen already fitted to cars

  30. This Side Up

    @Danny 14

    "or cuts out because you were pulling forwards to get out of the way of the ambulance."

    You are NOT expected to commit a moving traffic offence in order to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle. The crews know that. If you do you will probably not be prosecuted, but if you cause an accident as a result it will be your fault.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let Darwin deal

    Don't assume a green light means clear sailing. Be alert to how long it has been green before entering the intersection. Adjust scan accordingly. Especially if either cross street is a high speed road. Then take your chances - the same chances you took when you started the engine.

    This is not an IFR flight operation.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perverse incentives

    The report of the research suggests that they are building a system that will fail, as the incentive is wrong. They are suggesting a system where bad drivers can continue to run red lights in the knowledge that other drivers will be made to avoid them. It may work better if the system was built to shout "red light, idiot" inthe offending driver's car. If they continued and ran the light, the system could then report them to the police with sufficient accurate information to support a prosecution. Now that puts the incentive back where it belongs.

    (and even better if it fired the airbags in the offending car in anticpation of a collision)...

  33. Just Thinking

    The other side of the coin

    We have four way lights in town where you do have to wait an age if you arrive just after they have turned red.

    Yet at times I have been 4 or 5 cars back, and when the light turn green it takes the morons in front so long to notice and pull away that I don't get through. I can sort of understand the temptation to follow the last car through even though the lights have gone back to red. There's *always* room for one more car or three, right?

    No excuse, but sleep drivers contribute to the danger too.

  34. Dinky Carter

    In Japan...

    ... *everyone* jumps red lights... even buses, even at lights directly in front of police stations.

    Green means "go ahead at current speed"

    Amber means "put your foot down"

    Red means "I've got 2 seconds to go through the light"

  35. ravenviz Silver badge

    I was taught to always assume the worst can happen.

    So now I just don't go out.

  36. Identity

    No wonder

    it was developed at MIT. Have you ever driven in Massachusetts? Green means go and red means go, but watch out.

  37. Bodincus

    Proactive or reactive

    Most of the commentards here vouch for a capital punishment of the offending driver.

    As per speeding fines, reactive actions are TOTALLY ineffective at AVOIDING the danger / accident.

    If an idiot jumps a red light and splatters a driver of another car, taking away the idiot's licence and imposing a hefty fine / jail term is the least of the problems.

    If a speeder mows down a child near a school, the fine and the points on the licence for speeding doesn't save the poor boy/girl.

    *Reactive* actions, taken after that the dangerous behaviour has taken place, are totally ineffective at avoiding accidents happening: the deterrent from possible punishment had no effect, as the action has happened already. We need to take *proactive" and "pre-emptive" action.

    On railroad crossings we're used to barriers stopping cars from entering the crossing, and trains have early warning signals that tell the train driver if a crossing a few miles ahead is malfunctioning and/or blocked by traffic.

    I support the idea that cars should be fitted or retrofitted with a system to cut the engine and apply brakes, to stop the car causing damage or risk to other road users.

    Some high end cars already have an automatic emergency braking system, albeit driven by proximity or radar sensors: I guess using this system to stop bad drivers will be the next step.

    Nevertheless, corporal punishment and public humiliation for those who don't drive properly should be enshrined in law.

    Driving too fast towards a red light to stop safely before entering the crossing?

    1. Automatically:

    1.1 Cut engine;

    1.2 Apply brakes to max;

    1.3 Deploy airbags;

    1.4 Lock doors;

    1.5 Sound horn;

    1.6 Flash hazard lights.

    2. Wait patiently for the angry mob to:

    2.1 Tip your car over;

    2.2 Smash windscreen to smithereens;

    2.3 Pull you out of the wreck;

    2.4 Quarter you on the spot.

    There goes.

    1. perlcat

      Why so dramatic?

      No need for the death penalty. Just vary the pressure upon the junk-punching cylinder depending upon the severity of the offense -- if the red-light-runner is running around with his nutsack around his ears, I'm sure he will think twice about not stopping for red lights.

  38. perlcat

    I have a much better idea.

    Rather than use this as a method so that all other cars know to slow down for the idiot, install this on all cars.

    When the car in question is clearly going to run the light, a pneumatic cylinder engages to punch the driver in the junk at the same time that brakes are automatically employed. The car is automatically routed to the shoulder of the road, and said junk-punched driver is automatically ejected. They have no need for a car anyway.

  39. Graham Marsden


    ... You could teach people that red light jumping is potentially murderous behaviour and apply appropriate penalties rather than a pathethic slap on the wrist (in this country £60 penalty and 3 points)

    It's not exactly rocket science. To quote the Highway Code:

    * * * * *

    Junctions controlled by traffic lights

    175 You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop’ line across your side of the road unless the light is green. If the amber light appears you may go on only if you have already crossed the stop line or are so close to it that to stop might cause a collision.

    [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36]

    176 You MUST NOT move forward over the white line when the red light is showing. Only go forward when the traffic lights are green if there is room for you to clear the junction safely or you are taking up a position to turn right. If the traffic lights are not working, treat the situation as you would an unmarked junction and proceed with great care.

    [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36]

    * * * * *

    If you are incapable of obeying these simple rules, you should not be on the road (and, speaking as a cyclist, yes, that *INCLUDES* bicycles too, to forestall the automatic response from car drivers).

  40. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    So have I got this straight,

    When a driver s going through their red light, my light doesn't go green?

    Or, my light goes green, but my car won't go?

    Or, the other guy's car is telling my car not to go because it, the other car, is driving through the red light?

    That sounds like you can drive through any red light without risking an accident or being caught. Except that you might hit a road user who doesn't have this electronic system, such as a cyclist. And you're on camera, it says.

  41. Jolyon Smith

    Surely the bigger problem with this...

    ... is that unless and until ALL cars are equipped with the tech required to make the system work, there will be drivers in cars that the system is entirely blind to.

    So you will get potentially false "all clear" signals, approaching an intersection, your in dash widget says "All clear ahead, no morons detected", but doesn't (and can't) tell you that there is a moron driving a car that your widget can't "see".

    And then there's be the cases where the widget says "WOAH THERE'S A MORON - TAKE EVASIVE ACTION!!" and as the result of doing so, a *different* accident is caused.

    Solutions that create more problems than the one they solve aren't actually solutions. They are just research funding vehicles for academics/engineers so busy creating something that they don't stop to think whether there might be a better approach to the problem they are trying to solve.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All you have to do is look for blue flashing lights and you've already got a statistically significant result.

  43. miknik

    There is already a system like this in London

    If the vehicle is two wheeled and pedal powered by the rider then you can predict with 99% accuracy that they aren't going to stop for a red light. You don't need any additional hardware for this system to function.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about cyclists?

    And their seeming inability to see the colour red at all?

  45. Anonymous Coward

    What we need is MORE POWER

    This wont work in large parts of the world, where everything from rickshaws to 40 ton lorries routinely ignore red lights.

    What we need is a system that puts 100v through the driver if he runs a red light as it changes, and doubles that for every additional second after the light has changed.

    This will also deal with the old farts who are too blind to see the lights, as 100v will kill most of them.

  46. Materialised

    Once upon a time....

    When I was a lowly junior developer. I worked on a system, which would allow emergency service vehicles to trigger traffic signals. It used a combination of RFID tagging and 'intelligent route planning' (I use the term intelligent loosely as this was the 90's).

    The theory behind it was the ambulance/fire engine/patrol car could actually trigger a traffic signal at its point of origin. The traffic signals would all be inter connected, and would 'daisy chain' along the vehicles route according to a pre-calculated average speed based on the time of day (and many other environmental / social factors). While it wouldn't ease congestion on the route, it would stop congestion from increasing.

    The project got to a stage where it was actually tested in London, and then the Department of Transport in the UK removed funding.

    So, with all the technological advances now, why can we not switch this situation around? Have traffic signals that automatically monitor roads (I am not talking about speed cameras). You run a red light, and the software automatically calculates, based upon your speed and current direction of travel, which lights to also turn to red in order to slow you down, and protect approaching traffic. If you run another red light, then a nearby patrol car is alerted, and given the details required to intercept you.

  47. This Side Up


    "Stopping the jumper's car might seem like a good idea, until they sue you when they get rear-ended because their car stopped under your control."

    The amber phase is long enough for you to stop and for the traffic behind you to stop before the red light comes on. If you are so close that to stop would cause an accident then you should be able to get through on amber.

    I think arresters should be used at level crossings because a rear-end shunt is likely to be much less serious than being hit by a train.

  48. This Side Up
    Big Brother

    Wouldn't it be simpler...

    to monitor the traffic approaching the lights and only let the next lot go when it was clear that it was safe. That could just be built into the control software. Of course you would have to prosecute any drivers who took advantage of the system to jump the red.

    By accurately tracking the speed of vehicles rather than just detecting them with crude induction loops, you could make the junction work much more efficiently.

  49. pompurin

    In car speed information

    You should have an indicator in car that tells you the current speed limit of the road. You could have future cars respect this limit and lock the car down (would be good for reducing insurance premiums). The amount of time you spend looking at the speed indicator and trying to avoid cunningly placed speed cameras adds to the risk factor more than the occasional red light jumper.

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