By Evan Perkins
Like most college students, 6:30 a.m. means I’m tired, angry and
probably late for class.
The one thing that makes this already miserable situation worse
is being unfairly condemned to waiting at a pointless red light.
If I’m the only car on the road, why do I need to be
There is no reason for this teeth-grinding scenario to
Sure, stoplights are an inevitable and necessary part of any
modern traffic system, but when I find myself sitting at a red
light while no one else is on the road, my blood boils.
With the vast array of technology present in this country, it’s
hard to believe no one has figured out how to make stoplights more
efficient. It’s about time.
Manufacturers have put so much effort into improving the fuel
efficiency of new cars.
Hybrid-drive systems, space-age light-weight materials, variable
valve timing and displacement-on-demand technology are just a few
of the new-age advancements that have drastically improved fuel
economy, but has no one thought to attack this problem from the
most basic level?
Stationary cars get zero miles to the gallon ” actually its less
than that. So every second stuck at a red light is gas wasted.
Acceleration is the least fuel-efficient part of driving.
Every time a car stops, kinetic energy is turned into heat by
the brakes and more energy ” in the form of fuel ” is needed to
accelerate from a stop.
Simply put: Stopping wastes gas.
On the other hand, cars in motion are much more fuel
On average, it only takes between 15 to 25 horsepower to
maintain freeway speeds.
This is the reason why city fuel economy is always less than
corresponding highway mileage ” hybrids excluded since they utilize
electric motors for city driving.
Minimizing the amount of red lights on any given trip will
ultimately increase fuel economy.
Imagine this happening on a national scale ” the fuel savings
would be vast.
Traffic engineering needs to incorporate fuel economy and should
aim to keep cars moving with as few stops as possible.
Stoplights use a few different methods of guiding traffic and
making motorists miserable.
Some use inductive sensors buried in the road to detect when a
car is present and change the signal to green.
Other lights are simply on timers ” these are the most
delinquent offenders of the breed.
These lights cycle between red and green on a rigidly fixed
timetable and are not designed to sense where traffic is coming
I’m no engineer, but there has to be someone out there capable
of inventing a “smarter stoplight.”
A smart stoplight would be able to detect how far away cars are,
how fast they are approaching and, most importantly, not change to
red for no reason.
Smart stoplights could easily be achieved by placing sensors
further away from intersections, and giving upcoming stoplights
time to “think” and change accordingly.
Better yet, stoplights could be networked so each individual
unit could feed off the others sensors to predict oncoming
The future is supposed to be green: Hopefully it’s the kind of
green that means “Go.”
Evan Perkins / The Poly Post
Gradual death of the sports car
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