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Florida Department of Transportation via Youtube

Diamond-Shaped Intersections Prevent Crashes by Cutting Out Left Turns

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Florida Department of Transportation via Youtube

Left turns are notoriously hated by drivers, and for good reason. According to a 2007 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [PDF], nearly a third of all crashes at intersections with traffic lights involved cars turning left. Waiting for the opportunity to turn is also time-consuming (just ask any UPS driver). But as WIRED reports, some highway architects have figured out a way to do without them.

The "diverging diamond interchange" (or DDI) replaces the traditional layout of an intersection with a clever design that's more efficient and less likely to lead to accidents. It works like this: At the intersection, two roadways carrying opposing traffic temporarily swap sides, creating a diamond shape. At the points where the roads intersect, traffic lights regulate who crosses when. (For a better idea of how they function in real life, you can check out the video below from the Florida Department of Transportation.)

The biggest difference with the design is that drivers turning left no longer have to pull out in front of oncoming traffic to do so. They can easily turn onto the diverging left lane when driving on the opposite side of the road.

The concept gained popularity in the U.S. after a grad student named Gilbert Chlewicki wrote a term paper detailing it. Even after discovering that the French had been using his idea since the 1970s, he continued to promote it here in the States. Today there are 62 DDIs in 22 states, and their effectiveness indicates that they're here to stay.

Last year, researchers found that diverging diamonds cut accidents by 33 percent and fatal accidents on terminal ramps by more than 60 percent. The drivers who use it were also found to rarely make mistakes. According to a survey conducted at America's first DDI in Springfield, Missouri, 97 percent of drivers said they felt safer on it. More of these intersections are being planned for highways across the country.

[h/t WIRED]

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Wisconsin Considers Building a Highway Lane for Self-Driving Cars
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iStock

Self-driving cars are already a reality, as companies like Google and Tesla have demonstrated. But the logistics of getting them on the roads with human-operated cars have slowed down their long-anticipated takeover. In Wisconsin, highway planners are looking into one way to accommodate autonomous vehicles when they arrive. Dedicated lanes for driverless cars are being considered for I-94, USA Today’s Journal Sentinel reports.

The project is supported by Foxconn, the Taiwanese tech supplier building a new facility 20 miles outside of downtown Milwaukee. Once the site is complete, it will cover 20 million square feet and employ up to 13,000 people. According to the company, setting aside space for self-driving vehicles could ease traffic congestion, both from new workers and cargo trucks, after the factory opens.

Officials were already planning to expand I-94 from six lanes to eight to accommodate the eventual increase in traffic, but Foxconn says that may not be enough. “We’re thinking about two years down the road; they’re thinking 20 years down the road,” Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said at a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

While Sheehy said the autonomous car lane proposal is “on the table,” he didn’t make any promises regarding the plan’s future. Wisconsin isn’t the only state looking ahead to new developments in road travel: In October, tech investors pitched an idea to Washington state officials to convert Interstate 5 into a corridor for autonomous vehicles between Seattle and Vancouver.

[h/t Journal Sentinel]

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Ford Tests Exoskeletons That Make Overhead Tasks Easier for Workers
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Ford

Engineers have already developed exoskeletons capable of supporting elderly people and helping paralyzed people walk. But the technology offers benefits to able-bodied wearers as well. That's what employees are learning at Ford's U.S. factories. As Road Show reports, workers there are suiting up in upper body exoskeletons designed to alleviate fatigue and decrease their chance of injury.

Assembling car parts requires workers to reach their arms above their heads thousands of times a day. While most healthy individuals would have no problem doing this type of work for a few minutes at a time, the rate at which these employees are completing the tasks puts an enormous strain on their bodies. This can lead to back and shoulder fatigue, soreness, and even injury.

In an effort to make their workforce more comfortable and productive, Ford has been testing the EksoVest from Ekso Bionics in two of its American auto plants. The non-powered suits fit people between 5 feet and 6 feet 4 inches tall. The lightweight design provides up to 15 pounds of support to each arm without weighing wearers down or restricting their movements. According to Ford, the pilot program has contributed to an 83 percent drop in the number of incidents that led to time off between 2005 and 2016. And on top of staying healthy enough to go to work, employees have reported feeling more energized during their off hours.

The EksoVest has already helped workers launch several new vehicles, including the 2018 Ford Mustang and the 2018 Lincoln Navigator. Following the trial program's success, the automobile company next plans to test the technology in factories in Europe and South America.

[h/t Road Show]

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