Tuesday, February 5, 2008

New Laser Technology: Now It Will Overload The Superhighway...Not Just The information Superhighway

Technology. Sometimes it a wonderful thing. Other times, it can be a big pain in the butt. And this future technology is one that I could see getting way out of hand. Apparently, lampposts really don't get enough credit for all they do, as not only do they provide a crucial light source for night-owls and a leaning post for really drunk people, but we've got them to thank for WiFi hotspots, surveillance checkpoints, and if Philips has its way, on-road warning signs. The oft overlooked street lamp could be getting a bit of an upgrade according to a recent patent application from Philips, as the company envisions a "traffic information system" designed to convey messages to drivers without requiring them to look away from the road ahead.

Could real-time traffic information be projected directly onto the road ahead? By installing a high-powered "laser" and matching it up with movable mirrors, the firm hopes to divulge pertinent information such as upcoming hazards, weather conditions, or other random tidbits of knowledge onto the pavement for drivers to view. Moreover, the units would be RF / IP controllable in order to change the messages nearly on-the-fly, giving motorists a quick heads-up about recent traffic changes or detours. Still, the premise of beaming warning signs and advertisements on the road ahead sounds perfectly viable if you're on a rural two-lane at 2:00AM, but we can't imagine things being very legible when it's beaming messages onto hoods of angry commuters in your average city.

The solution would be cheaper than installing a large video display and safer too, since drivers would not need to take their eyes off the road. Also, a warning about ice or danger on the road ahead would not need a full colour screen, so the projector could use just a single-colour laser. As well as providing warning signs, the laser projectors could paint temporary lanes onto the road, steering traffic round an obstruction, or away from the main highway and onto a side road. It's a neat idea, but how well would it work in busy traffic? Each lamppost would have its own IP address and would connect wirelessly, or via a cable, to a central traffic control centre. The projectors could also tap into the power already used to illuminate streetlamps.

Now I can see some hacker hacking in and causing some major traffic jam or accident. And the thought of seeing ads on the raod in front of me is enough. Have you seen those giant LED billboards! And since they could be connected to the internet, maybe we could do Google searches via a voice system in our car and have the results flash on the road in front of us! And let's not forget the leaders in the use of the internet. The porn industry. There's got to be something in this idea for them. Hmmmm.