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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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RE: Is this a joke??
By Camikazi on 5/26/2010 10:33:08 AM , Rating: 3
I don't like this, first of all doesn't a car use a rather large amount of fuel when starting up (like a computer an big electrical spike when turning on) making the fuel conservation at a red light low if a gain at all (depends how long light is red). Secondly, stopping people from running red lights might be a good idea, but, are these systems gonna slam on the breaks too, cause if it just turns off the engine the car will coast and probably stop in the middle of the intersection while the light is green for cross traffic. This just seems to not help at all, this might just make things worse, specially with a big truck being stopped at a light, big rigs tend to be more efficient leaving them on for short periods then turning off and starting up in same time.

RE: Is this a joke??
By clovell on 5/26/2010 12:19:20 PM , Rating: 2
Fuel efficiency, privacy, forget all that. 90% of engine wear happens during startup. I'll let you guys figure out the rest of the math here.

RE: Is this a joke??
By Kurz on 5/26/2010 12:19:30 PM , Rating: 4
On a cold engine.

RE: Is this a joke??
By clovell on 5/26/2010 12:29:33 PM , Rating: 2
Fair point. Even on a warm engine, though - how many stop lights do you hit during an average commute?

RE: Is this a joke??
By Chernobyl68 on 5/26/2010 12:43:45 PM , Rating: 5
Anywhere from 0 to a dozen, depending on how much I've pissed off fate that day.

RE: Is this a joke??
By Alexstarfire on 5/26/2010 2:54:05 PM , Rating: 2
I tend to agree that a basic start-stop system is useless for saving fuel. You rather pinpoint it on the head that you aren't stopped long enough. Also, at least with my farthers' Civic Hybrid, the second you let off the brake the engine starts up. How many times have you seen people who "creep" at the lights? Every time they do that the engine would start-stop, wasting more fuel. A true hybrid system like in a Prius is a much better solution/system. Those creepers won't start-stop the engine and you can travel the first couple seconds during acceleration on battery. That helps quite a bit when it comes to mileage.

That said, in a car where the engine is designed to start-stop like in hybrids you'd be a fool to think it starts the same as regular cars. I can't say it for certain about ALL hybrid, but many of them have larger starter motors. That way it revs up higher before starting. Less wear and tear. Don't know how much it helps, but it really isn't THAT bad. Have you heard about all the hybrids hitting 100k miles with little wear and tear?

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