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Sweet but Unfeasible: Eko -Traffic Light Design

December 3, 2009

Damjan Stankovic’s undeniably cool traffic light concept, shared by Noel Chun via Toxel, is indeed a feast for the eyes but is ultimately unfeasible as a product with widespread use due to several reasons.

1) There is no real value added – traffic signals around the world have had timers for years, so this is essentially old wine in a new bottle. It’s just another timer.

2) Moreover, it is an unworkable design because the lights counting down would only be visible in certain climate conditions – in bright sunlight, for example, it would be difficult to distinguish dark red from light red. The design lacks the all-important element of contrast. Visibility would also be low because the details are too small to be seen from more than a few meters away.

3) A key benefit touted by the designer is that there will be environmental benefits and cost savings when drivers shut off their engines if they know exactly how long they have to wait – however, few of us will have seen drivers doing that, even in places where timers exist. I don’t know why that is; however, I have a theory.

Let’s assume that timers on traffic signals are more widely used in ‘developing’ countries such as Pakistan as compared to ‘developed’ countries such as Canada (I’m not the only one to have experienced this). However, since cars are more likely to be older and in worse condition, drivers are less likely to shut down engines from fear of wasting time and fuel in difficult ignitions – starting up a car is a common problem in Pakistan at least. Even here in Canada, drivers can guess when their signal is about to turn green by watching the pedestrian signals – but few, if any, switch the engine off.

Despite these cons, Eko has still been given an award – the focus was probably on the innovative design but not implementation. How effective do you think this product would be in the situation shown below?

Traffic Jam in Karachi, Pakistan.

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