Improving intersection safety

A team of researchers has developed a device for assisting drivers in making correct decisions at intersections.


A team of researchers headed by Prof. David Mahalel at the Israel Institute of Technology’s Transportation Research Institute has developed a device for assisting drivers in making correct decisions at intersections.


The device is designed to increase driver alertness when approaching an intersection without a traffic light. In situations where there is a risk and traffic accidents can occur, the device warns the driver.


‘We are talking about a smart traffic sign for intersections without traffic lights,’ explained Dr. Yotam Abramson, who developed the system.


‘We install two cameras on a pole at the intersection – one facing the main road and the other the secondary road. Under these cameras is a computer that constantly processes data it receives from the cameras. When it identifies a risk of collision, it activates a flashing light on two yield signs positioned in the intersection. The flashing light is intended to increase driver alertness when approaching the intersection,’ he said.


Dr. Yotam Abramson added that accidents at intersections without traffic lights can occur in two instances. One, when the driver coming from the secondary road does not notice the traffic sign and is not aware that he does not have the right of way, or two, when he notices the traffic sign but does not correctly interpret the information.


‘In both cases, the driver makes the incorrect decision,’ stressed Dr. Abramson. ‘The assumption is that the flashing light will draw the driver’s attention to the sign and increase his alertness.’


The intersection chosen for the test – Reines-Queen Esther in Tel Aviv – is a typical urban intersection with limited visibility and high-speed access from the main road. This is a four-way intersection in which it is not clear which is the main road and which is the secondary one. At such intersections, the driver does not have an intuitive understanding of who has the right of way and therefore noticing the sign is very critical.


The researchers hope that the device will reduce accidents and near accidents at the intersection, without impeding traffic flow on the main road.


In the future, the researchers hope to install an additional development – a smart traffic light that will be activated when it identifies a driver who is about to cross the intersection on red. It will either flash or delay the green light in the other direction.


‘A system like this one will also serve as a traffic violation camera,’ emphasized Dr. Abramson. ‘A driver who is about to cross the intersection on red and causes delay of the green light in the other direction, will be considered someone who has run a red light and will be punished accordingly.’