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The LED Traffic Light and the Danger of "But Sometimes!" technology connections

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Around the mid-2000’s, the LED traffic light began making its way onto the scene. Recent developments in LED technology meant that energy efficient replacements for the standard incandescent lamp were beginning to appear. Municipalities rejoiced with the energy savings they provided, but in cold climates they weren’t met with quite as warm a welcome. Not producing sufficient heat to melt snow on their lenses, some drivers became confused by ambiguous signals and caused fatal accidents.
This video tells the tale of why this newfound “problem” generated harsh criticism to the new technology, and explains why this reaction is entirely dumb and regressive.

Watch me take apart one of these traffic light modules here:

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The LED Traffic Light and the Danger of "But Sometimes!"

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The LED Traffic Light and the Danger of "But Sometimes!"
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42 thoughts on “The LED Traffic Light and the Danger of "But Sometimes!" technology connections”

  1. i feel as though the people whom flip out over this kinda "but sometimes" aren't actually upset that a traffic light may be obscured in a rare circumstance, They have an alterior motive which simply lets them makes a convenient scapegoat out of "bumpy progress"

  2. "But sometimes the LED is not visible because of the snow" what about the "Very often the incandescent lights burn and it can take many days to replace so you have an intersection with no traffic lights anyway and way more often"

  3. Literally, heated surface? No. Just have a sensor that measures whether or not it's snowing and whenever it IS snowing just turn on "windshield wipers"
    Snow only builds up if you leave it over time, so having wipers that just continue going back and forth and therefore prevent snow from building up in the first place completely shuts down the downside..

  4. Everyone pause the video at 13:38.

    Now, notice the proper outline for “not changing lanes in an intersection.” Turning onto a multilane road is not to be treated as you get the entire road for yourself and can pick whatever lane you want. Stay in your lane in the turn. Turning left requires you to enter in at the leftmost lane. Turning right the rightmost lane. This gives the added advantage of allowing right turning traffic to proceed on a “right on red” (unless prohibited by a sign) even while the lane across from them is turning left on a left turn green arrow, keeping the flow up – the entire reason multilane roads exist in the first place. Stay safe out there.

  5. I'm all for progress and innovation, truly, but I find LEDs to be TOOOO bright. They hurt my eyeballs at nighttime. Same with the new headlights.

  6. So this is one of a couple cases where you've said the problem is stupid people who don't follow the rules that exist. As a interface designer I think the concept of a norman door applies here. You can rail at people for being too stupid or you can design the system so it's automatic or obvious. Practically speaking the first thing tends not to solve anything.

  7. The problem is that frequently when it is really snowy and icy, it frequently is tough to see, sometimes even tough to see that intersections even exist, especially when it gets dark. Sure you can say that they should stop but when it is icy and you can't see because the stoplight is dark, you might very well slide. Sure you can do the heater thing but obviously it is a lot more complicated than your initial plug and play scenario for the LEDs.

  8. I hate those led lights; I don't know if it's because of my corrective lenses or what but I can only see them if it's fairly dark outside; in bright daylight they are invisible to me.

  9. When I was little, I remember going into the city and they had crosswalk lights that showed blue eyes looking both ways, which worked kind of as a yellow light for people walking. They no longer have that, and have the timer ones instead, which I like. I find it usually takes me 15s to go across a two way road. Also, I wonder if that light sensor is why school buses have a flashing light on top as well.

  10. what u are talking about in 13:30 and so on is a bit different in germany… we have 2 sorts of lights… for low trafic areas for right hand turns it is a green arrow to the right hand side of your normal trafic light but it only turns green (its only color) once the oposing trafic has red and therefore comes to a complete stop…

    in high trafic arreas for left hand turns though the green arrow is across the crossection (on the left side next to the vehicles that are still oposing and has 2 modes, blinking yellow and straight green) because depending on the daytime and trafic sometimes the oposing trafic has a longer green phase and therefor the "green arrow" only blinks in yellow until the oposing trafic has come to a full stop (red), then it turns into a full green arrow and u are free to go… this works really well… it allows you to creep forward and even make a turn when it is yellow blinking if the trafic allows it and once it turns full green u know u are full safe…

    I know an intersection where they did not have this before and they had a lot of accidents with motorcycles that thought they could still make it but never did… this way they are going over read and get caucht by the camera and are commiting a felony… so its still bad for them but not for the tax payers

  11. 12:29 what he says from there on is so true and inspirational… it is literally the philosophy of all of Elon Musks companies… they dont care what new problems will come they are there to fix those new problems and together they make insane progress and improve the world by not being naysayers to everything that might seem problematic in some ways but has huge advantages in other ways… this just means we didnt do enough yet to make it really good… not that the product idea itself is shit

  12. what if these LED lights were covered in these thin defroster stips like in a car back window… I bet that does not demolish the efficiency and would also fix the problem…

  13. I dont know what we are doing different in germany but I have never seen a burnt out light… they get dirty sometimes but not quite as often as u suggest and only in really low traffic areas, where nobody cares anyways

  14. As soon as the snow building up on lights was mentioned my first thought was “why don’t they just put a car windshield defroster on the lens” and I’m so glad someone actually went and made it

  15. I think the main reason emergency signaling is not included in driving tests is that is differs vastly by region, it hasn't been standardized enough to be able to cover all the variations. At least where I live, it can differ from town to town. It's also largely irrelevant, if you follow the normal traffic rules and stop at a red light does it really matter WHY it turned red? It's interesting (to certain people) to understand the mechanics, but for most people it's just annoying that the light turned red sooner than it would normally.

  16. With the countdown timer in the crosswalk. That is something Chicago has gotten right that most towns get wrong. The timer hits 0, the light turns yellow. By using this and by knowing the patterns of the light (is there a protected left, is someone triggering it, or am I in that lane to turn left) you can anticipate when the light turns green. If I am the first one at the light I like how that can keep my mind engaged with driving and focused on my surroundings and anticipate what will happen when. Granted I don't then ignore the signal assuming green, since, I may have missed something. That said having that pattern, to me at least makes driving more enjoyable and engaging.

  17. Though it usually is, I don’t think the “but sometimes” argument is always invalid the way this video insinuates
    Was it invalid for the issue of street lights? Well yeah, of course
    But then you know,
    “Asbestos is an amazing insulator, but sometimes it can cause mesothelioma” is a pretty valid reason to replace asbestos entirely, rather than augmenting it to make it more safe

  18. i 100% never learned to treat non functional lights as a stop sign, but i guess thats cause it doesn't snow in texas? whatever, it seems sensible enough lol. no light=/=permission to zoom

  19. I notice I can't see the lights during the day if I'm wearing "Blu-Blocker" sun glasses. Maybe this is why commercial pilots are prohibited from wearing polarized lens sunglasses.

  20. Benefits of LED Lights over Incandescent Bulbs
    1. They're Cheaper
    2. They're Versatile
    3. They consume less energy

    What otherwise could've been a 3 min video was made for 18:30 minutes long. Why? Because he can! Mua Ha Ha

  21. Folding signs? In Russia, all intersections have priority signs (don't know the term for english), but functioning traffic light is overriding them by default. And traffic police officer managing the traffic overrides both the signs and ligths. It's just stated by traffic laws and all drivers learn it in driving schools.

    Who unfolds those signs and how quick is it done anyway?

    And we use really bright flat diode matrixes in our traffic lights, visible even in direct sunlight, so there's no need for visors whatsoever. A snow just doesn't have a suface to lay on, win-win.

  22. “The But sometimes” I feel like I know your stance on nuclear energy. & I agree if it’s what I think. The technology has improved substantially & if it’s maintained properly. It should be our best energy source with the least amount of waiste.(factoring in the required area, the carbon footprint from the manufacturing, environmental impact, lifespan, & energy returns. Again if it’s properly maintained & the waste is disposed or responsibly.)

  23. Solution that is even less expensive in the long run and gets over all the problems the incandescent and LED bulbs face is getting rid of traffic lights and using roundabouts instead.

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