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Traffic signal transponder, anyone?(35 posts)

Traffic signal transponder, anyone?Humma Hah
Apr 23, 2001 2:59 PM
Hey guys, I'm getting ready to embark on a new career, and an interesting possibility has offered itself. My present boss says, while working for a large electronics firm, his team had the idea to build a gizmo that goes on a bicycle and triggers traffic signals. You could, for example, be in a left turn lane, and while over the sensing loops that normally only sense cars, ping out a signal that lets the sensor know you're there.

The company never went for the idea. The boss is looking to see if he still has the plans, which hopefully I could build and test, and possibly market. If this pans out, would anyone here be interested? I'd probably provide a free unit for testing.
have to be pretty cheap, I imagineCory
Apr 23, 2001 3:35 PM
I like the idea, especially around here where only girlie-men ride by-sykuls instead of driving pickemups. As a practical matter, though, I can't imagine people paying very much for it...or rather I can't imagine ENOUGH people paying ENOUGH for it that you could make money. Personally, I'd probably balk at about $20--it's just too easy to run the lights. And while the Litespeed crowd might pay $500 just to say they had one, how many of them are there?
Keep us posted, though--it's an interesting gimmick.
I'll try it.Lazy
Apr 23, 2001 3:46 PM
Why not. I love gizmos.

Before investing too much time/money/energy in this, you might want to find out if something like that would be legal.

Where would you carry it? It would be best if it would mount to the bottom of the BB or something. Definitely bike mount capable.

I agree on the cost issue that was mentioned. Might have better luck selling them to MFG's so they could integrate them into framesets somehow.

Might be cool to integrate it into a cyclocomputer?

Good luck, and keep us posted.
Probably would be cheap and light ...Humma Hah
Apr 24, 2001 12:01 PM
... the electronics would be pretty simple. The two big questions are how big a coil would be needed and how much power would it take to get the attention of the detection electronics. If the thing needs a 3-ft-diameter coil attached to the BB or a lantern battery, it ain't gonna happen. The boss hasn't given me the design yet, so I don't know how practical it is.

As for legality, that shouldn't be a problem. This device would not force the lights to change, just let them know a vehicle is there that the system normally can't see, but should. It would improve the safety of the system.
re: Traffic signal transponder, anyone?biknplnr
Apr 23, 2001 3:49 PM
I'd try it - my conscience almost always gets the best of me when stuck at traffic lights - even when the street is totally deserted...

Same here. That's my inspiration (nm)Humma Hah
Apr 24, 2001 12:02 PM
Here in the Silicon Valley...Biking Viking
Apr 23, 2001 3:57 PM
...most of the sensors do work with bikes. Don't ask me how - it could not be magnetic - the only steel part on my bike is the chain. Many of the intersections have a white line with a bike symbol painted in the left turn lanes - if you stop on or close to it, the light will change. Other intersections have buttons for cyclists to press. That would rule out most of the people, I believe.

Bike Viking is correct.Pyg Me
Apr 23, 2001 4:15 PM
Something magnetic or something like that in the sensor. An old bike cop trick is to lay your bike down on the sensor and pick it back up, it will trip the sensor easily. Only takes a half second. We usually use it to exit apartment complexes/closed gated communities.
That's too funnyKristin
Apr 24, 2001 6:31 AM
When I think no ones looking, I just get off my bike and jump up and down on the thing. Sometimes I even do a little dance. I'll try your method next time.
Yeahbut...Biking Viking
Apr 24, 2001 8:48 AM
...that only works with steel frames. The traditional sensor loop is a buried coil of copper wire that detects a change in the geomagnetic field. A steel frame layed down will deflect the field sufficiently to trip the sensor. What amazes me, is that the sensors in the Bay Area trip on my bike which is mostly titanium, aluminum, plastic and rubber - none of which are magnetic. I have no idea how they do it, but if I just stop my bike on that line with the bike symbol, it works - almost every time.
Yeahbut...Cliff Oates
Apr 24, 2001 9:00 AM
Spokes, perhaps, unless you are running Spinergy's
No, I'm running...Biking Viking
Apr 24, 2001 12:05 PM
...Ksyriums with aluminum spokes. Also, steel spokes are stainless - which is non-magnetic.

Not exactlyCliff Oates
Apr 24, 2001 7:34 PM
Actually, I did a little experiment with refrigerator magnets after the Silly SS question the other day. I learned that Reynolds 853, 531, Campy Nuke spokes, and DT spokes are most definitely magnetic. I didn't check my Henry James SS dropouts -- that'd be overkill. As I recall, someone in that thread pointed out that there are two major varieties of SS and one of them is magnetic.
Au contrair, mon frair.Pyg Me
Apr 25, 2001 8:13 AM
My city bike is a 2000 Trek 8000. Aluminum through and through.
We're getting some bike lane sensors in San Diego ...Humma Hah
Apr 24, 2001 12:06 PM
... I've encountered a few that work, and see a number of bike lanes marked for future installation of these. But it will take quite a while for many areas to get them.

And I've yet to see one in a left turn lane. One near here particularly gets my goat. I've gone so far as to lay my 42-pound steel monster down flat on the sensor loop and it still won't detect me! If a car is not turning my way, I've stuck. The cross-traffic is usually not conducive to running the light, which I hate to do anyway.

Those of you with proper sensors should celebrate -- your system is bike-friendly and is the way they all should be. The gizmo I'm proposing is a stop-gap until the rest of us catch up, which could take 20 years in some areas.
I dunno, how much does it weigh?12x23
Apr 23, 2001 4:04 PM
Just kidding. I have one highway to cross twice (out & in) each ride that is too crowded to 'sneak' across. It would be nice not having to wait for a car to trip the light.
re: Traffic signal transponder, anyone?look271
Apr 23, 2001 4:10 PM
I'd try it. It would be good for commuting. Riding my road bike on a ride, I usually don't encounter lights, but it would be a benefit while commuting!
DOT regulations and bikesrollo tommassi
Apr 23, 2001 5:03 PM
interesting and tempting idea, Humma, but I wonder.......

While we cyclists clamor for our right to the road, our "vehicles" do not conform to the rules of the road - we do not have brake lights, turn indicators, or head lights as other vehicles are required to have.

Oftentimes I have asked motorist to pull forward so that the vehicle is over the sensor (are they weight sensitive, or magnetic?), but there have been times when I've been 'stranded' at a sensored signal with no other cars around. I feel stupid waiting for the light to change, but it's creepy going thru the red. So your gizmo sounds interesting.

Would a device, designed for non-motorised vehicles such as bicycles, that triggers traffic signals, cause a backlash of regulations upon cyclists to conform to standards of visibilty, signaling and safety markings? Would the advent of such a device hinder the prevailing advocacy for road rights as they apply to cyclists, and would advocacy programs support it? Is such a device intended for motor vehicles, or would it be preferential for cyclists? Should cyclists enjoy preferential ability in traffic concerns if they do not conform to state and federal traffic law? these things i wonder about whilst cruising down my bike lane (does a painted white line really do anything for my rights to the road?)

ohhh, can of worms!
DOT regulations and bikesHumma Hah
Apr 24, 2001 12:12 PM
Most jurisdictions have specific regulations pertaining to bikes. These include requirements for headlights if used after dark, reflectors, and the use of hand signals. Bicycles pre-date cars and have a well-founded place in traffic rules (although there was some trouble in the middle of the last century where a few cities tried to outlaw them, which was largely overcome in the Truman administration).

It doesn't hurt to campaign locally for favorable treatment of cyclists, but they do have a firm track record in traffic law.

The device proposed would simply make the signal detect a bike as well as it does a car.
better idea...Entropy
Apr 23, 2001 6:12 PM
Screw that. Give me a cell phone jamming device. It should emit a shrill tone into the ear of the pretentious, self asorbed a-hole using the phone. If it would cause deafness I would pay big bucks!
re: Traffic signal transponder, anyone?Skip
Apr 23, 2001 6:23 PM
In addition to cost, I'm sure weight and size would be big concerns of most cyclists. Would it be a passive or active (meaning the rider had to physically activate the unit) unit? Best of luck, and keep us posted with details.
Passive, I'm thinking ...Humma Hah
Apr 24, 2001 12:15 PM
It won't be built unless it is relativly cheap, compact, and light.

I'd probably build it to just sit passively until it detects the signal from a traffic sensor loop. It would then generate a "ping" that the sensor should interpret as a car present above it. I'm thinking a small audio chirper in it would click or beep to let the cyclist know the device had worked (that would tell you the battery was still good).
Passive, I'm thinking ...Skip
Apr 24, 2001 1:35 PM
Sounds interesting.
I would really think hard....BusinessMajor
Apr 23, 2001 6:56 PM
...before making a career out of this. I could be wrong, but I just don't see this as a large money making opp.

Good Luck in whatever you do though.
Big corporation versus garage operation ...Humma Hah
Apr 24, 2001 12:21 PM
... Among the things I've been considering for the last few years is establishing something called "WhyDoesn'" ... well, maybe the URL is a bit long, but you get the idea.

Most of these things would be straightforward and made by someone else, for which the market is too small to attract much competition. For example, several companies make alumina tubing in various sizes, but with poor dimensional control and little attention to being able to "telescope" pieces together, and nobody makes "pipe fittings". These are usually special-order custom grind or engineered parts, and folks wanting just a few are stuck with large charges for them. If one outfit were to order a suitable set in a modest quantity, they could sell to similar users.

What makes this possible today is search engines on the internet.

I've "invented" many things over the years, never developed, and a few of them were subsequently invented and marketed and made their inventors a fortune.
Big corporation versus garage operation ...Live Steam
Apr 24, 2001 6:51 PM
I've invented a few things in my day also. Actually Home Depot was my idea back in college. Being an architectural major, and involved in building, I always thought it would be a neat idea to be able to go to one place for all of the supplies and equipment needed to construct a home. Well low and behold, a few years later, Home Depot was founded. Well I guess I'll act on my instincts next time inspiration strikes.:-)
Racing to the patent office...Kristin
Apr 25, 2001 12:42 PM
If I had $8-10,000 in my pocket, I'd have invented the LCD computer display panel and subsequently the Proxima (though I'm sure I wouldn't have called it that). However, I'm just a poor girl who scraped enough money together to buy a low end DeBernardi.

My great grandfather was an inventor and nearly worked for Edison. There is a phenomina that occurs among inventors whereby several people all over the world come up with the same idea at once. Remember the atom bomb?

And only one person gets the gold...if you invent anything relating to PC's today, Bill Gates will either buy you out or smash you quickly like a miserable bug. Okay, its a little of the subject of cycling. If my great granddad had owned a Trek 5500, perhaps he would have one a race or two.
The telephone was that way ...Humma Hah
Apr 25, 2001 2:01 PM
... Bell beat the other inventor to the patent office by mere minutes. Nobody remember's the other guy's name.

I'm looking for ideas that are not lucrative enough to interest a major company. Just some little niche that can keep bread on the table, using a web page designed so search engines can find me.
His name was Meucci....Live Steam
May 1, 2001 10:49 PM
Antonio Meucci was the true inventor of the telephone, and many do remember his name. The key is promotion. He who promotes themselves the best is the one that gets the recognition. Check out the link below for the true story of the invention of the telephone. I am sure you won't forget his name anymore!:-)
re: Traffic signal transponder, anyone?Jofa
Apr 24, 2001 4:31 AM
I don't have a clue what everybody's talking about. What are 'sensored' signals? Do we have them in the UK? Am I really dumb? (I'll get me coat)
Misspelled, it's "censored" traffic lights (NM)Mr. Newspeak
Apr 24, 2001 8:45 AM
re: Traffic signal transponder, anyone?dug
Apr 24, 2001 5:45 AM
How 'bout a square water bottle & hollow ball bearings while your at it. Yet another ridiculous answer to a question that was never asked.
re: Traffic signal transponder, anyone?Alan B
Apr 24, 2001 7:30 AM
Sounds good to me, Humma. I run the left turn lights and always worry about the mandatory $300 fine if the cop doesn't buy my argument. I'd be more than happy to try one out.
Just stay away from the Peruvian Air Force...(NM)MeDotOrg
Apr 24, 2001 2:08 PM
Great idea!ACE
Apr 24, 2001 11:33 PM
I'll buy one, may even be willing to invest (should you have the need).