John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Stoplight

Is the stop light becoming the abacus of transportation technology?

Maybe I am just restless and hate waiting.

Maybe I am a complete fool when it comes to technology and logistics.

Maybe I have no right or qualifications to comment on topics, like traffic control, that I know nothing about.

Well, there’s the thing. Even if all those things are true they haven’t stopped me before.

So here goes. I was sitting at several stop lights today for very long periods of time. Several minutes which is a long time in stop light time. And there was no other traffic because it was very early. This happens to me most days and got me thinking that I probably spend about an hour a week sitting at stop lights when there is no reason to —if we had the proper smart technology. For some people sitting at stop lights unnecessarily  for 50 hours a years is a huge loss in production and an inefficient use of their time. (In my case, it is probably a good protective measure and prevents me from screwing things up, but that isn’t true for everyone).

Which got me thinking about the abacus as I stared (leered, really, at the stop light). For centuries, even millennia,  the abacus was considered an advanced and ingenious discovery for making mathematical calculations. And is still used today in many countries that haven’t moved over to hand calculators. (Which are actually much superior in terms of speed and efficiency).

jyb_musingsAt the time the abacus was invented, it was a breakthrough technology right up there with fire and the wheel…..but that doesn’t mean we should never try to improve on the abacus.

Hence hand calculators. So, is there a “hand calculator” like advancement on the horizon for smarter stop lights? Or is this truly the best we can do? I don’t know.

I would just hate to find out that every time I was sitting for several minutes unnecessarily at a stop light with no cars in sight it was because someone somewhere was operating the stop light from an abacus-like system. That when it was invented was an utterly brilliant breakthrough but over time could have been improved on.


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