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Los Angeles to Install Intelligent Traffic Signal Controllers in Hopes of Improving Safety

Some 1,500 intersections in Los Angeles to get upgraded with new traffic signal equipment.

Upgrades to traffic control systems in Los Angeles could make that city’s streets safer for more than just the folks behind the wheel.

New control cabinets — the behind-the-scenes nerve center for traffic signals — will include new technology to control features such as the guide-lighting in crosswalks, or signals directing bicycle traffic.

“The novelty of the ATC [advanced transportation controller] cabinets is in an increase of the limit of input and output devices,” said Oliver Hou, a transportation planner with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “This translates to more features for more types of users than the previous cabinet, which has proven useful as our transportation system becomes more complex.”

The control cabinets — which are each about the size of a refrigerator — are being developed by McCain Inc., of Vista, Calif., and are designed to support smart city technologies and LED control signals. McCain will deliver some 1,500 of the smart traffic cabinets to Los Angeles, which the company described as the second-largest traffic market in the country, beginning at the end of the summer.

“Generally speaking, one cabinet runs one intersection,” said Nathan Welch, McCain's director of sales. “Though, with advanced transportation controller cabinet technology, you can do more. Moving to the ATC platform enables L.A. to accommodate [signals for] bike lanes, which they were unable to do with their existing infrastructure."

Intelligent traffic signals and streetlights are changing intersections all across the country as more cities are rolling out next-generation city infrastructure primed for 5G connectivity and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications. Two years ago Miami-Dade County began deploying new traffic system controllers that allow for V2I connections, as the city anticipates cars like the Audi A4, Q7 & other models which have Traffic Light Information, a feature where the car — sitting at a red light — counts down to green.

Kansas City, Mo., has plans to deploy hundreds of traffic sensors in the next few years as part of a significant expansion of its smart city project portfolio.

San Diego is also on its way to lighting up half of the city with smart streetlights, as part of a plan to upgrade 3,200 lamps with a package of sensors to gather data.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.