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IBM Patenting Traffic Lights That Stop Your Engine to Save Fuel


I have always been the geek type and liked high-tech, but IBM’s recent patent on file has made me raise an eyebrow. They filed a patent application for a traffic light system that can control the vehicles’ engine, remotely turn them off or signaling the drivers if it’s safe to do so in the interest of reducing fuel consumption.

The algorithm would be this: IBM’s start/stop system would receive position information from the cars waiting at the red light, and will determine a queue or the vehicles liked at the signal (of course, if all vehicles are equipped with this system).

Then, the system would determine the time left before the lights go green, and if this time exceeds a certain threshold, the traffic light would send signals to the vehicles’ engines/drivers and stop them.

When the green light kicks in, a notification would be sent to the vehicles in line, in the order that they should leave (at an “optimal time”).

The system that IBM proposes uses data from traffic signal clocks, GPSes installed on vehicles, traffic load information, cameras, and other sensors embedded at the intersections, Wi-Fi, cellular neworks, satellite communications – in a word, everything.

Now you may understand why I wonder about this system’s feasibility – it is so complicated and has so many variables that I couldn’t be optimistic that everybody would have it turned on all the time and use it – I guess it would rather create havoc in intersections when some drivers wouldn’t know what happened to their engine who wouldn’t start anymore, or one who pushes the gas pedal when the engine was stopped, hitting the one in front of him, and so on.

Things should be simpler, instead. Such intelligent traffic management systems would only be adequate when all cars would be hybrid-electrics, and all the drivers would be instructed from the beginning to drive nice and calmly, just like the Germans or the Dutch. I wouldn’t like some system to have control over my engine for whatever reason… would you?

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