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Street Signs Reimagined for the Digital Age

Traffic signals don't get updated very often. Occasionally, cities test out new walk signals or add extra safety measures for pedestrian crosswalks, but the tri-color traffic light hasn’t changed much since it was invented in the early 1920s. Moscow-based designer Evgeny Arinin took it upon himself to reimagine what traffic signals and signs could look like in the 21st century, as WIRED reports. His traffic light system is sleek and simple, using large LED displays and colored arrows to keep people safe while on the road. For instance, a four-way intersection would be visualized using a cross-shaped light, while an intersection where one road dead-ends into another perpendicular street would be visualized by a T shape. If you can turn left but not right, a green arrow would curve to the left side of the cross, but the right side would be blocked off in red. The system is minimalist: There are only arrows and straight lines of light. As has been the case since the 19th century, red means stop and green means go. Arinin hopes the lack of visual clutter will make signs intuitive and easy to read. According to Margaret Rhodes at WIRED, now is the perfect time for cities to rethink street signals. As driverless cars become more prevalent, traffic signals need to become easy for cameras to read. While humans can read a traditional street sign as well as these LED arrows, a computer might find it easier to focus on the simplicity of Arinin’s shapes. The edges of the screens in Arinin’s designs also have raised bumper edges to prevent people from getting confused as to which sign in the intersection is directing them—if it’s not a sign for your lane, you won’t be able to read it. To redesign every street sign in one country, much less the world, would be an enormous expense, and there are plenty of regulatory hurdles involved in designing traffic intersections. While the concept is a finalist in this year’s Lexus Design Awards, the lights may not be coming to a town near you anytime soon.
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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
Ford
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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