Years ago, a popular daily cartoon showed a noble knight riding into a joust, pennants flying, lance up and ready, but with a hand over his eyes. It was funny, but also a bit profound, as we too often take on noble aims without a clear view of the challenges ahead, sometimes with serious consequences.
Dark intersections can take an outsized toll on both drivers and services. Last year's Hurricane Irma exemplified the costs: with more than half the traffic lights in Miami-Dade County out, road crews scrambled to deploy limited numbers of generators; police and sheriffs departments were stretched thin trying to direct traffic manually and writing tickets to drivers mishandling the outages; and accidents were caused by confused drivers blowing through dark intersections. While a hurricane like Irma doesn't happen every day, any dark intersection is an accident waiting to happen, and two-thirds of those are injury accidents, according to a New York DOT study. For the sake of drivers, DOTs, and first responders, transportation departments need strategies to minimize the occurrence and duration of traffic signal outages.
Knowledge is power, and the city of Portland, Oregon, is about to use the power of knowledge to save lives. As part of its Vision Zero Program, the city is deploying a network of smart sensors along its three most dangerous streets to gather data about the speed and flow of traffic. Traffic system designers will analyze data from the sensors to figure out what's not working and how to make those and other city streets safer for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
With all the exciting new developments in Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), the subject of UPS technology and batteries may seem about as sexy as a pair of socks. But traffic system outages aren't sexy either, so backup power matters. And there have been new developments in UPS technology in recent years, giving ITS system designers more options for building systems with maximum uptime.
The dog days of summer are upon us: High temperature records have already been broken, from southern California to New England, leaving power outages in their wake. Heat also puts a stress on the UPS and batteries in traffic cabinets, just when they are needed most to handle power brownouts or outages. While the ITS Cabinet Standard specifies operating ranges up to 74° C (165° F), the effect of summertime temperatures in excess of 100° F plus direct sunlight on the cabinet, plus the heat produced by the electrical components themselves can quickly turn a traffic cabinet into an oven, shortening the lives of components and, worst case, leading to system failure.
Cities around the world are tapping into the fast-growing "Internet of things" (IoT) to move people and vehicles more efficiently and safely. These sophisticated new transportation systems will greatly improve our quality of life, but successful new technology also tends to create dependence. Case in point: how anxious do we feel if our cellphone battery dies or we forget it at home? With great power comes great responsibility, so ITS buyers and builders need to ensure that the new capabilities they're creating also come with the 100 percent uptime their users will need.