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Coming soon: red lights that turn green for bikes

Wednesday 17 February US Texas technology
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Traffic signals in Austin, Texas, are to respond to approaching cyclists by staying green for longer.

An innovation being piloted by the city will encourage cyclists to use a dedicated smartphone app which reports their position to city networks. If the rider is approaching a traffic signal that’s about to turn red, the lights will stay green for a few seconds longer to let them across safely.

Technology has long been used to give ambulances and other emergency vehicles free passage across cities, but these are generally sensor-based rather than GPS. Austin’s initiative is also believed to be the first time that such technology has been used to encourage motorists out of their cars.

Teri Pennington, city CIO, explained the concept to Government Technology magazine:

“Our system pulls that GPS data, and if the light is close to turning red, it may hold a few more seconds. The app's GPS then tells the system it is past the light, and the system starts to watch the next light in your path.”

The app will use a speed filter to determine whether you’re travelling by bike, car or on foot. The system will also be used to smooth traffic flows after major events, such as football games, and to speed buses through the city.

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