Categories: Tech News

High-Tech Tools Looking for Ways to Make Traffic Signs ‘Smarter’: Roadshow

Q: It bothers me to wait and wait for a traffic signal to let me go when it’s already perfectly safe to do so.

We are collectively wasting a lot of gas and a lot of time due to antiquated traffic signal system electronics. To me, personal waste is trivial, but multiply that by the many cars affected, and we’re talking a significant amount of waste and pollution.

Perhaps your widely read column might interest a state official or agency in soliciting suggestions for safe modifications to the current straw control system that would allow traffic signals to become electronically “smarter.”

Ron Johnstone, Santa Clara

A: Cities in the Bay Area are testing ways to make traffic signals more responsive to traffic.

In San Jose, the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) team evaluates new technologies as they become available. “This is demonstrated by our current pilots in vehicle detection using thermal and AI-based video cameras, safety analysis with Lidar-based cameras and traffic signal performance. There are also pilots for data collection using tools network-based analytics and traffic signal priority using connected vehicle technology based on GPS tracking,” said Misael Millan, signal operations transportation specialist at the San Jose Department of Transportation.

The technology you refer to is in the early stages of R&D. When it becomes available for regular use, San Jose will also evaluate it.

Q: When you are at a meter light that is on during non-carpool hours, is it okay to use the short carpool lane if you are a solo driver?

Most solo drivers use the single-occupant lane at those times, and I think those using the short carpool lane are cheating.

What is the law (if any)?

At the Ludlow, Morgan Hill

A: Carpool hours are in effect 24 hours a day at almost all ramps. If the ramp’s shared lane is free for drivers to use only at certain times, shared hours are published.

Q: Steve Rempel’s letter about the “cyclists may use the full lane” signs added to Skyline reminded me that I had always been puzzled by these signs.

My understanding is that since bicycles fall under the category of “vehicles” they are allowed to use the full lane always and everywhere (except on roads such as motorways). Of course, this is with the same restrictions that cars have, such as generally keeping to the right except when passing, not unnecessarily impeding the flow of traffic, etc.

Was my understanding wrong?

Gary Brainin, San Jose

A: Yes, your understanding was incorrect. As for these specific signs, they are posted to alert drivers to the fact that cyclists may need to move to use the normal lane.

Find Gary Richards at or contact him at


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