Traffic lights worldwide set to change after a Swedish engineer saw red over getting a ticket

The outrage of a Swedish engineer on a traffic ticket has led to a six-year legal struggle and now a global change in the speed with which traffic light signals are synchronized.

After Mats Järlström lost an initial legal challenge in 2014, a federal judge in January of this year ruled that the Oregon rules prohibiting people from representing themselves as engineers without a professional license from the state are unconstitutional.

And now Järlström's calculations and defense have led the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) to revise its guidelines. [PDF] for the synchronization of traffic signals. As a result, yellow lights around the world could burn for longer: ITE is an international advisory group with members in 90 countries.

Järlström discovered a problem with traffic lights in Beaverton, Oregon, after his wife Laurie received a $ 260 ticket for a red light violation of an automated traffic light camera in 2013.

Järlström , who studied electrical engineering in Sweden, questioned the ticket, arguing that the time interval for yellow lights does not take into account scenarios such as a driver entering an intersection and reducing the speed to make a turn. He argued that a slightly longer interval would allow drivers to turn in a yellow light to exit the intersections before the light turns red. Even a small increase in time would help: the automatically generated ticket in this case was issued 0.12 seconds after the light turned red.

When Järlström brought the problem to the State Board of Oregon State Land Engineering and Topography Examiners, the state board opened an investigation in 2015 and imposed a fine of $ 500 the following year for practicing engineering without a Professional license.

Thanks to the assistance of the Institute for Justice, a legal defense organization focused on limiting the scope of government, Järlström not only gained the right to refer to himself as an engineer, a refund of the fine of the topographic board (although not the fine for fine), and the elimination of the moving violation of the premium of your car insurance, but also the opportunity to fix a formula that has governed the traffic light since 1960.

Since the court order prohibiting To Oregon enforcing its unconstitutional speech restriction, Järlström has been working with other engineers and advocates to change the way traffic lights work. During the summer, an ITE panel met to hear arguments in that regard and last month agreed that the timing should be reconsidered.

 The Mats Järlström equation "title =" The Mats Järlström equation

"The yellow road sign was first conceived in 1920 and in 1960, scientists [Denos] Gazis, [Robert] Herman and [Alexei] Maradudin presented the fundamental science that is still in use today," said Järlström in an email to Registration . "It is a historic moment to update science now by extending the 1960 solution so that it is also applicable to turning maneuvers."

  Mats Jarlstrom, pointing to a traffic light camera

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Järlström said that if the ITE accepts its solution, the duration of a yellow light on the right-hand turn scenario that it described in 2015 would extend from 3.2 seconds to 4.5 seconds using the current input values: driver-vehicle perception-reaction time and maximum safe and comfortable deceleration. Such synchronization may vary depending on other considerations, but in general the adoption of Järlström's formula should result in slightly longer yellow lights.

ITE staff will develop and formalize the proposed changes to produce a final document called Recommended Practice that will be submitted to the ITE Board of Directors for final approval in early 2020.

Jarlstrom said it has been a lengthy process. To get to this point. In addition to his own efforts, he acknowledged the support of Alexei Maradudin, Jay Beeber, Brian Ceccarelli and Joe Bahen of the National Automobile Association. He also said that the test equipment manufactured by Racelogic, based in the United Kingdom, provided a way to prove their theories.

"Our common goal is to improve traffic safety and equity through our signalized intersections around the world," said Järlström.

History repeats itself. The initial light synchronization work of 1960 occurred because one of the scientists involved believed that he had been fined by mistake. In correspondence via email with Järlström, Maradudin explained that he became co-author of the 1960 article because another co-author, Robert Herman, invited him to spend time at the General Motors Technical Center to work on traffic light math. Herman did, Maradudin said, because he had received a red light ticket that he considered unfair. ®

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