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Can this traffic light tech make your commute safer?

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Is the next generation of traffic signals a way for drivers to get through intersections but not hit a cyclist?

Two teams from MIT, Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University have been working on a light system that would change color during the times when a car was going to hit a bicycle.

Here are some of the innovations in the project, which is called Intelligent Traffic Light Systems.

Getting bad:

You might have been aware of the device at intersections known as the red light trap, which changes color when a car has gone beyond the full length of the traffic light. This does so by interrupting the flow of traffic.

“Red spot” improves safety by reducing collisions at intersections By monitoring where accidents happen, the device warns the driver by changing color. When the vehicle leaves the intersection, the color returns to green. The European Institute of Transport Research and Safety Technology, ENTS-SAT studies, also have shown the benefits of signs that change colors.

The problem:

In 2012, 26 cyclists died in accidents, and 47 were injured. Only one in seven bicyclists dies from traffic injuries. Because of this, studies show that change in color reduction red vehicle crashes can be up to 25 percent.

What this system does:

The lights, which are all approximately the size of a credit card, is a control system that changes color when a car is about to hit a cyclist. The goal is to reduce the number of crashes, but not the number of accidents. “The idea is not to only slow down a car driving down, but to reduce the number of cyclists on the road,” said Christopher Garrett, a computer science and engineering professor at the University of Pennsylvania who is not connected to the project.

The MIT team has designed the lighting device to work by following long-distance “leads” as cars approach. Each device could determine the direction and speed of a car, turning on amber and green flashes when the vehicle is past the light, and a red and green flash when the vehicle is expected to break.

The team is also working on ways to adjust light patterns to increase or decrease light intensity according to traffic speeds.

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