U.S. Traffic Light Problems Too?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From the Electronic Telegraph (London), Saturday, 13 February 1999

Millennium bug threatens traffic lights, By Paul Marston

ABOUT 10 per cent of traffic lights may break down when the new Millennium dawns, threatening huge traffic jams, councils have been warned.

Siemens Traffic Controls, which maintains more than 50 per cent of Britain's traffic lights, estimates that equipment at 1,300 intersections could fail because of the date-change computer problem.

The warning has alarmed motoring organisations, which accused central and local government of lacking urgency in tackling the problem.

Traffic engineers believe that affected lights will not stop working completely but will go out of phase, with red signals likely to stay on for longer than normal.

Many controls are programmed to run in different sequences at different times of the day or week to smooth vehicle flows in varying traffic conditions.

It is feared that disruptions to sequences would lead to heavy build-ups of traffic, particularly in town centres, which could take hours to clear.

Cut and pasted by

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 12, 1999


Think Safetran:

They make most of the railroad AND streetcar traffic signals in this country. McCain is another manufacturer based in California. I've been checking their respective websites for stuff on y2k for some time now but haven't seen anything specific. There are some INTERESTING memoranda from meetings with the NTSB and other government agencies on their site. Nothing that specifically mentions the bug.

Discount anyone who claims their city's traffic lights are compliant... wonder how they know that?

The typical traffic light controller is often hooked up to a computer network (either via phone lines or via radio link). These systems are fairly robust, but I ought to point out the obvious. Each intersection requires about 1 to 5 kW of electric power, there's no way to supply that with battery backup power for a whole city. I've never seen any city with backup power for street lights.

-- Papa Smurf U-net (smurfunit@smurfcom.com), February 12, 1999.

I have worked in the road construction industry in central Indiana for the past 10 years surveying and supervising road construction projects throughout the state. I recently contacted one of the 2 suppliers of traffic signal controllers (Econolite and Eagle) commonly used here. They assured me that the signal controllers were compliant and should not have any problems. However, these controllers have LCD displays and resemble a desktop computer in size. The modern controllers have modems and are interconnected via either wire cable or fiber optic cable installed beneath the ground. These, in turn, are monitored by the local town or city in which they are installed. Traffic flows and patterns are monitored and the signal timings are adjusted to optimize traffic flow. Unfortunately, many communities are running outdated software on DOS machines. Embedded system chip problems concern me. The Econolite manufacturer rep. stated that the competitors had problems with their controllers. I took this at face value. Many cities have very modern traffic signal systems which will be vulnerable IMHO. On the brite side, cities such as Chicago have such antiquated traffic signals that they are pre-micorchip age. This could turn out to be a blessing for Chicago if the power stays up. Perhaps a lurking transportation engineer could contribute more information.

-- Trafficjam (roadconstruction@darntraffic.com), February 12, 1999.

Siemans is correct. We just had it happen. 5:00PM. Computer glitch. Definitely a phase problem. Traffic jam and shall I say incivility? News interviews tended toward Y2k speculation and perhaps an issue requiring deeper investigation. Interesting that "glitch" is quickly being associated with Y2k. The Sleeper awakes. LR

-- LR (observer@large.com), February 13, 1999.


So YOU are the one tearing up the roads! Pleased to meetcha :)

Seriously, thanks for the info from a fellow Hoosier.


-- Mercy (they'realways"fixing"@US31.com), February 13, 1999.

Another one that flashed by my screen is the solar powered freeway "help" boxes. California has tons of 'em, and apparently they aren't compliant either.

Now where did I see that?


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), February 13, 1999.

From what I've seen people usually look at the traffic light problem as a silly inconvience. It seems to get lumped in with the y2k fear of elevators and planes falling out of the sky.

A week or two ago in a Chicago Suburb the timing of traffic lights was malfunctioning in an intersection. There was a horrible accident involving a vanload of people with multiple injuries and at least one death. I'm not saying this problem was y2k related. I am saying that if lights malfunction (even a few) it could be more than an incovenience.

My Opinion,

-- Deborah (lights@timing.off), February 13, 1999.


Thanks for pointing out that traffic light malfunctions are serious problems.

I predicted in Y2k forums last summer that Y2k-related traffic light problems could result in more deaths through auto accidents than any other Y2k problem (like engine malfunctions) with a connection to automobiles.

Here's a variation:

I predict that in the two-month span of December 1999 through January 2000, the number of deaths clearly attributable to Y2k problems leading to traffic light malfunctions will equal or exceed the number of deaths clearly attributable to Y2k problems in any other area.

This prediction is void if on December 31, 1999 or January 1, 2000 vehicular traffic is restricted (more than usual for those dates) by authorities in major urban areas, which I consider to be a high-probability possibility.

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), February 13, 1999.

And then there's road rage. . .

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 13, 1999.

Knock it off, guys! You'll wake up my insurance company! LOL

-- Brooks (brooksbie@hotmail.com), February 13, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ