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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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There are some major engineering holes here
By zmatt on 5/26/2010 10:58:06 AM , Rating: 2
If the system does stop the car i could see some issues with very sudden stops without warning to drivers behind you. That could create wrecks. if it doesn't stop you then loss of engine power means loss of power braking assist. I could see some older or sick drivers not being able to fully stop and rolling into the street. Also bad.

The way to get around that would involve a complex system using accurate gps's and a computer system to control the braking of cars involved. Of course this means massive overhead (run by who? the city? state?, car mfr? IBM?)It wouldn't be cheap and could easily run into problems. Not to mention the privacy backlash that such a thing would create. And it would be handicapped by not all cars being in the system.

To be honest I would not worry too much. Big companies like IBM patent anything they come up with even just to make sure other people can't figure out a way to make it work and market it. This technology (IMO) has some serious hurdles and I doubt it will ever be used.

But if they do, I will refuse to buy a new car so equipped. And if the feds mandate it, well I'm driving old cars.

By VahnTitrio on 5/26/2010 11:06:00 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention what if traffic is being directed by a police officer for whatever reason.

Or what if it's winter and I want my heater running? Or the summer and my AC?

I think you are correct that we will never see this implemented. I do however like the countdown to green red light in the picture, that actually is useful.

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