Light changing gadget spells traffic disaster

Tuesday November 11, 2003

A gadget that gives you control over the colour of traffic lights on the road ahead sounds like a great idea, until everyone gets one that is. This recipe for traffic catastrophe is the scenario facing traffic control officials in some US communities where "rip-offs" of the device normally used only by police and emergency services have found their way into the hands of ordinary drivers via the Internet.

The Detroit News reports that police are worried about the potential chaos the devices might cause and traffic engineers are taking steps to combat the issue by attempting to lock out signals that don't originate from a "recognisable" emergency vehicle.

There is some contention as to the legality of the device in the US because it relies on an infrared beam (as opposed to radar jammers and other devices that emit radio signals) and therefore doesn't come under the auspices of the US Federal Communications Commission. Legislators will no doubt be looking at the issue.

The mobile infrared transmitter (MIRT) used by police and emergency vehicles to change the colour of traffic lights works in 2 to 3 seconds from more than 1500 ft according to the manufacturers site at The dash-mounted unit emits 15 watts of energy and can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle with no installation. The MIRT costs US$299.

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