Monday, June 22, 2009

Automobile Indicators (part two): Public Transit

Does anyone else hate getting stuck behind a bus when they 'pull over' at a bus stop, especially right before (or after) an intersection? I sure do.

Don't get me wrong, it's great that they are actually indicating, except public transit doesn't distinguish between a lateral change of position signal (turning/changing lanes) and a 'I'm-stopping-at-a-designated-bus-stop' signal. The frustration is further enhanced when the bus driver decides that this is the stop where they are going to grab a coffee or stretch their legs. Grrrr!

The same can be said when they are finally leaving their designated bus stop. While they usually indicate the upcoming movement with their indicators, it's not clear whether they are just entering the flow of traffic again, or if they actually desire to switch lanes. So, I'm proposing a simple and swift orderly change... distinguish between the two different actions.

But first, a few regulations to keep in mind, oh and we don't want to create an entire re-engineering nightmare, just a little tweak to go a long way. Federal laws dictate that turn signals are required to blink on/off, at a steady rate (between 60 and 120 blinks per minute). And automobiles are limited to red, amber and white lights - no other colours are permitted (except on emergency vehicles).

So I suggest...
- Use a circle light to indicate 'I'm-stopping-at-a-designated-bus-stop' (50 blinks per minute)
- Use a triangle/arrow to indicate the lateral change of position (100 blinks per minute)
- Use a square/rectangle to indicate braking

What do you think? How would you change it? Or, do you think there isn't anything wrong with the current set-up?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Automobile Indicators (part one): Emergency Vehicles

While driving, if an emergency vehicle approaches you with lights flashing and sirens blaring you're supposed to pull over to the right, slow down and/or stop, right?

But what if that emergency vehicle wants to turn right and exactly where you've pulled over to get out of the way? I've observed this exact situation numerous times. More recently this happened to myself and trust me, I felt awful. But I'm just doing what we've all been trained to do.

This got me thinking about automobile indicators, especially emergency vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances. Sure I've seen the odd emergency vehicle with small orange indicator lights that have black vinyl around the outside cut to create the shape of an arrow, but it's just not enough.

Why don't they have a specific area or highly-visible lights reserved exclusively for the indication of their intended direction? This could help save valuable seconds, ultimately saving someone's life.

Now, I know what you're thinking... there are already several lights flashing and the situation can be quite panicky when an emergency vehicle suddenly appears in your rear-view mirror with the sirens screaming. But isn't this the moment when clear communication is the most essential? This is a prime example of "if everyone is screaming, you can't hear a thing". Maybe we could even reduce the amount of flashing lights.

I've put together a quick solution for how this could be improved. What do you think? What would you change if you could tweak the design?