During a recent, thought-provoking TED Talk from Rory Sutherland, he discusses perspective and expectations. One of the examples he references, is a Korean trial of Red Traffic Lights, which includes a countdown timer aka progress bar. Brilliant idea!
The credit for this 2009 concept goes to Damjan Stanković.
The concept take the standard stop light and surrounds it in 32 segments that turn off one-by-one, counting down until all are expired and the light changes to green. The idea is design to calm drivers who are frustrated by intersections that feel like they take forever to get through.
By knowing how long is remaining, drivers then have an expectation of how long the wait will be. Often its not the number of seconds that a driver has to wait that is the root of frustration, its not knowing that elevates the bloody pressure.
So my question is why, 3 years on from the concept, are these traffic lights with progress bars everywhere? Naturally there is a risk that these traffic lights would become the street racer’s favourite friend. While that may indeed be a risk, it doesn’t change that fact that street racing is an illegal activity and should not be the reason for not implementing this great solution.
Probably the biggest challenge for the new traffic light design is the current investment in infrastructure. Its not feasible to rip out existing traffic lights and install new ones, that would attract a great capital cost. What should happen is that we enter a transition period, where any new or repaired traffic lights get the new design. Over time more and more intersections across the country and the world would become much calmer places.
Image Credit: http://reflectionof.me