The Light of the Traffic Light

Yediot ahronot

January 3, 2019

950 traffic lights are tuning traffic in Gush Dan, the Tel Aviv metropolis and the center of the country to its 3.5 million inhabitants. None of them is a smart traffic light, not a traffic light that detects the loads at intersections and the types of vehicles approaching it. No one adjusts the exchange of lights to the planners’ priorities, maintains the safety of pedestrians and allows uninterrupted flow to public transport on special lanes. Not one – although converting existing traffic lights to smartphones costs little money and although one of the world’s most advanced companies in the field is established in Tel Aviv. This is Axilion, an Israeli company under the joint management of two prominent hitkists, founders Oren Dror and Ilan Weizman.

“Smearing yellow stripes on the asphalt to mark special lanes for public transport misses its purpose when the buses traveling on these lanes have to stop at each traffic light and wait patiently in a traffic light in green light,” Dror says. “The benefit of public transportation is eroding and the disappointed citizens are returning to work in their private cars.”

“A smart traffic light is capable of allowing the bus and minibus a free pass at the intersection, and then compensating the cars waiting for more seconds of green light.” Oran Dror, Co-Founder & CEO of Axilion. 

What is “smart traffic light”? Oren Dror explains: It is the same traffic light that adorns almost every intersection in Israel – in all of Israel, no less than 2,100 traffic lights are operating – having a new “brain”, new sensors and detectors, detection technologies and new information and communication capabilities. Thus he became a fool to a genius. The smart traffic light is capable of adding a few seconds of green light to the bus and minibus to allow their free passage at the intersection, and then to compensate the cars waiting for extra seconds of green light. He is able to spot a pedestrian who is delayed in the middle of a crosswalk and pauses accordingly. Smart traffic lights shorten the signal exchange when the road is empty (we all know the annoying occurrence of continuous green light against a non-traffic road), alerting emergencies, exchanging information between them and control centers to regulate and synchronize traffic throughout the city and allow unexpected traffic jams. To do this, the smart traffic lights of the Axilion green wave create “breathing” or “active”, Considering the whole beam around, near and on the road. Their communications systems are ready to connect at unique frequencies with autonomous, driverless cars – and in the first phase with service taxis and autonomous minibuses. We will be partners, Dror says, for the first experiment on autonomous minibuses without a driver in Las Vegas.

Not in Israel. In the cities of Israel there is no priority for public transport at the intersections, and traffic lights that direct traffic are using an old-fashioned technique from the 1990s. Except for two exceptions: the light rail routes in Jerusalem and the special buses (Matron) in Haifa have installed Axilion smart traffic lights. Their passengers are now moving around the cities without stopping, even at intersections and intersections.

But that was not self-evident. In the summer of 2011, the government decided to launch the light rail in Jerusalem without securing priority at the intersections, despite the opposition of Citipes, the private company responsible for establishing and operating the project. “For the residents of Jerusalem,” CityPass wrote in a media release, “there is an easy train that does not stop at any traffic light.”

The frequent stops – 70 traffic light traffic lights – extended the journey time to 80 minutes and the average waiting time at the station to 15 minutes. The Jerusalemites tried, hurt, and avoided using the lame mass transit. It took several years for the authorities to approve the contract with Axilion and another two years until Axilion completed the installation and experimentation of the smart traffic lights. Now, according to Dror, Jerusalem’s light rail is the only one of its kind in the world that doesn’t stop at any traffic light – and its ride does not interfere with traffic flow in the city. It saves time, energy, pollution and money. Travel time was shortened by 20 minutes and train waiting time was reduced to 5 to 6 minutes. The number of passengers increased from 40,000 to 165,000 a day, and on much busier days. Without the smart traffic light, says a former senior transport official in the Jerusalem municipality, the light rail would have become a resounding traffic failure. It arouses the curiosity of transportation managers in major cities around the world who want to take a closer look at the system. After all, everyone is dealing with the phenomenon of slow-moving underground transport. The additional sections of the light rail, whose construction is underway, will also use Axilion’s implicit solutions.

If only the Ministry of Transport will not interfere and will not block the move.

Haifa boasts a smart traffic light from the development of Axilion along the route of the Matron. The average travel time for this unique bus service was reduced by 20%, the frequency increased by 25% and the number of passengers nearly doubled. According to the plan, additional metro lines will be operated in the Haifa metropolis, all under the watchful eye of hundreds of smart traffic lights. And again: if only various elements of the Ministry of Transport will not interfere.

Axillion’s smart traffic light technology is also interested in New York City; She has already placed them along Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, having appropriated two lanes of public transportation. Traveling on a bus down the avenue and wondering how it always comes to the traffic light in green light? This is not the bus, it is the Israeli head implanted in a traffic light.

Meanwhile, the forecast for smart traffic light in Israel’s roads and in the streets of a gloomy city. Influential officials in the Ministry of Transport are clinging to the existing traffic light system, which is operated by an outdated, static, and limp software system called Anbar. In May 2016, the Commissioner for Traffic in Jerusalem District, a senior official at the Ministry of Transportation and Road Safety, wrote: “Anbar is an outdated and powerful software. Many bugs and complicated design … (On the other hand) Axilion software was developed in Israel and has notable advantages over Anbar … Our office has extensive knowledge of its operation and is recommended by us for use in node planning. “On several nodes, the Axilion smart traffic system has been installed since “No one moves,” concludes Oren Dror, in despair.

More technology companies were likely to develop smart traffic light systems. But they are reluctant to look at the hardships of Axilion, who encounter a blocking wall of adversaries and governing powers in the government apparatus. “It is not in their head to deal with the issue of smart traffic lights,” explains a person involved in the transportation policy in Israel. “Well then the bus is waiting a bit at the traffic light, so what, they say. Technological innovation is not their agenda.” This week, the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure Planning and Development Administration also sent a multifaceted announcement on “renewal of support for traffic light traffic.” “We are pleased to announce this,” the statement said.

They are happy. Israeli citizens, on the other hand, have no reason to rejoice. We will continue to get annoyed at an old, dead-end traffic light that has not been canceled. We are his victims.

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