sponsored links
TED2010

Gary Lauder's new traffic sign: Take Turns

February 2, 2010

Fifty percent of traffic accidents happen at intersections. Gary Lauder shares a brilliant and cheap idea for helping drivers move along smoothly: a new traffic sign that combines the properties of "Stop" and "Yield."

Gary Lauder - Venture capitalist
Gary Lauder is the managing partner of Lauder Partners, a VC firm, and the co-creator of the Socrates Society at the Aspen Institute. Full bio

sponsored links
Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I only have three minutes
00:15
so I'm going to have to talk fast, and it will
00:17
use up your spare mental cycles, so multitasking may be hard.
00:19
So, 27 years ago I got a traffic ticket
00:23
that got me thinking.
00:25
I've had some time to think it over.
00:27
And energy efficiency is more than just
00:29
about the vehicle --
00:31
it's also about the road.
00:33
Road design makes a difference, particularly intersections,
00:35
of which there are two types: signalized
00:37
and unsignalized, which means stop signs.
00:39
Fifty percent of crashes happen at intersections.
00:41
Roundabouts are much better.
00:43
A study of 24 intersections
00:45
has found crashes drop 40 percent
00:47
from when you convert a traffic light into a roundabout.
00:50
Injury crashes have dropped 76 percent,
00:53
fatal crashes down 90 percent.
00:56
But that's just safety.
00:58
What about time and gas?
01:00
So, traffic keeps flowing, so that means less braking,
01:02
which means less accelerating, less gas and less pollution,
01:04
less time wasted,
01:07
and that partly accounts for Europe's better efficiency
01:09
than we have in the United States.
01:11
So, unsignalized intersections,
01:13
meaning stop signs, they save many lives,
01:15
but there's an excessive proliferation of them.
01:17
Small roundabouts are starting to appear.
01:19
This is one in my neighborhood. And they are
01:22
much better -- better than traffic lights, better than four-way stop signs.
01:25
They're expensive to install,
01:28
but they are more expensive not to. So, we should look at that.
01:30
But they are not applicable in all situations.
01:33
So, take, for example, the three-way intersection.
01:34
So, it's logical that you'd have one there,
01:37
on the minor road entering the major.
01:39
But the other two are somewhat questionable.
01:41
So, here's one. There's another one which I studied.
01:44
Cars rarely appear on that third road.
01:46
And so, the question is, what does that cost us?
01:49
That intersection I looked at had about 3,000
01:51
cars per day in each direction,
01:53
and so that's two ounces of gas to accelerate out of.
01:55
That's five cents each, and times 3,000 cars per day,
01:57
that's $51,000 per year.
01:59
That's just the gasoline cost. There is also pollution,
02:02
wear on the car, and time.
02:04
What's that time worth?
02:06
Well, at 10 seconds per 3,000 cars,
02:08
that's 8.3 hours per day. The average wage in the U.S.
02:10
is $20 an hour. That is 60,000 per year.
02:12
Add that together with the gas, and it's $112,000 per year,
02:16
just for that sign in each direction.
02:19
Discount that back to the present, at five percent:
02:21
over two million dollars
02:23
for a stop sign, in each direction.
02:26
Now, if you look at what that adjacent property is worth,
02:29
you could actually buy the property,
02:33
cut down the shrubbery to improve the sight line,
02:35
and then sell it off again.
02:38
And you'd still come out ahead.
02:40
So, it makes one wonder, "Why is it there?"
02:42
I mean, why is there that stop sign in each direction?
02:44
Because it is saving lives. So, is there a better way to accomplish that goal?
02:47
The answer is to enable cars
02:50
to come in from that side road safely.
02:52
Because there are a lot of people who might live up there
02:54
and if they're waiting forever a long queue could form
02:56
because the cars aren't slowing down on the main road.
02:58
Can that be accomplished with existing signs?
03:01
So, there is a long history of stop signs and yield signs.
03:03
Stop signs were invented in 1915,
03:06
yield signs in 1950. But that's all we got.
03:08
So, why not use a yield sign?
03:11
Well the meaning of yield is: You must yield the right-of-way.
03:13
That means that if there are five cars waiting, you have to wait
03:16
till they all go, then you go. It lacks the notion
03:18
of alternating, or taking turns,
03:20
and it's always on the minor road,
03:22
allowing the major one to have primacy.
03:24
So, it's hard to create a new meaning for the existing sign.
03:26
You couldn't suddenly tell everyone, "OK, remember
03:28
what you used to do at yield signs? Now do something different."
03:30
That would not work.
03:32
So, what the world needs now
03:34
is a new type of sign.
03:36
(Applause)
03:38
So, you'd have a little instruction below it,
03:42
you know, for those who didn't see the public service announcements.
03:45
And it merges the stop sign and yield signs.
03:47
It's kind of shaped like a T, as in taking turns.
03:50
And uncertainty results in caution.
03:52
When people come to an unfamiliar situation they don't know how to deal with
03:55
they slow down.
03:57
So, now that you are all "Road Scholars" ...
03:59
(Laughter)
04:01
don't wait for that sign to be adopted, these things don't change quickly.
04:02
But you all are members of communities,
04:05
and you can exercise your community influence
04:07
to create more sensible traffic flows.
04:09
And you can have more impact on the environment
04:11
just getting your neighborhood to change these things
04:13
than by changing your vehicle. Thank you very much.
04:15
(Applause)
04:18

sponsored links

Gary Lauder - Venture capitalist
Gary Lauder is the managing partner of Lauder Partners, a VC firm, and the co-creator of the Socrates Society at the Aspen Institute.

Why you should listen

Gary Lauder is the Managing Partner of Lauder Partners LLC, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm investing primarily in information technologies. He has been a venture capitalist since 1985, investing in some 60 private companies. He is also chair of ActiveVideo Networks, a developer of interactive television technology for cable, IPTV and other forms of internet delivery. Other directorships: Promptu, MediaFriends and ShotSpotter. Investments are primarily in television/IPTV technology and web arenas. 

He is the co-creator of the Aspen Institute's Socrates Society with Laura, his wife. He has had a working cable modem (usually) in his home since 1994. He is co-inventor of 10 patents, has spoken at some 80 industry forums, and, since 1992, has published several articles about the future of the cable industry ... that he still stands by.

The original video is available on TED.com
sponsored links

If you need translations, you can install "Google Translate" extension into your Chrome Browser.
Furthermore, you can change playback rate by installing "Video Speed Controller" extension.

Data provided by TED.

This website is owned and operated by Tokyo English Network.
The developer's blog is here.