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  (Source: Damjan Stankovic via
IBM patent goes Big Brother

Running red lights and failure to stop leads to untold numbers of traffic accidents around the world. Sitting at a red light with cars idling also burns fuel that really isn’t needed.

IBM has filed a patent application that outlines a system that would turn the motors of a car off at a traffic light to conserve fuel. Few will take issue with green technology that conserves fuel, saves them money, and reduces pollution. However, there is a dark side to the patent application that privacy advocates will not like.

The system IBM is proposing has to have access to the engine of the vehicles at the light to stop the engine. With access to the engine, the traffic lights can not only stop the engine of a driver's car, but it can also determine the duration that the engine is stopped and then when the light is over it can start the motors of the cars up in sequential order so the first cars at the light get to go first. The system would use GPS data to know where vehicles were located at the light.

The patent application reads:

Vehicle fuel consumption is a major component of global energy consumption. With increasing vehicle usage, there may be more traffic and longer wait times at traffic signals (e.g., at a traffic intersection or a railway crossing). Fuel may be wasted when drivers keep their vehicles running while waiting for the traffic signal to turn "green" or waiting for a train to pass at a railway crossing. Most drivers may not switch off their engines in these situations. Drivers who do switch off their engines may do so inefficiently. For example, a driver may switch off the engine, only to start it up a short time later. In such cases, more fuel may be consumed in restarting the engine. Some traffic signals may have clocks that indicate remaining durations before the signals change. However, drivers in vehicles waiting at the back of the queue may not be able to view the clock.

There are other aspects of this technology that the patent application doesn't spell out. For instance, this system would make it impossible for a driver to run a red light. There could also be safety issues to a system such as this. For instance, what if a driver had a medical emergency and the light turned off the car making it impossible to reach a hospital. The system would require software and hardware be installed on vehicles at an unknown cost.

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What about the hacker...
By Simozene on 5/26/2010 10:25:40 AM , Rating: 2
...that decides to randomly shut-off cars while people are driving? I think this safety issue far outweighs any possible advantages of this technology.

RE: What about the hacker...
By gamerk2 on 5/26/2010 10:34:50 AM , Rating: 1
Nevermind teh reliance on a handful of statallites in orbit...[GPS]. We almost had the entire GPS net go down last month due to delays getting replacement statallites up, so what happens if the GPS net is not avaliable to start up the card in sequence?

RE: What about the hacker...
By Gyres01 on 5/26/2010 10:49:52 AM , Rating: 4
This is effing about making the systems that control the stoplights smarter ?? I mean how many times have we been stuck at a red light and there isn't even a car coming the other direction !! And don't get me started on the middle of the night timers....

RE: What about the hacker...
By Anoxanmore on 5/26/2010 12:45:46 PM , Rating: 2
Most intersections in a city have a sensor that will trigger a timer to start running when a car shows up at a red light and the opposite direction is green.

Especially after certain hours at night.

RE: What about the hacker...
By Camikazi on 5/26/2010 6:39:19 PM , Rating: 2
Those already exist, they are used where I live, there are pressure plates at the line at an intersection that starts a timer to change the light quicker if no cars are coming through cross traffic. One is at the first light when I leave work, is kind of fun to stop right behind the pressure plate when many are leaving work and pretend you don't know about it, keeping the light red on purpose :P Of course I only do that when it's people I know behind me :)

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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