If you think that there would not be any new designs that will surprise you the way i-whatever did, think again. Especially when you were rushing the red light. Surfing across the web in a lazy evening brought to my attention the design of Uni-signal, a traffic light with a slight variation from the norm.
|Uni-signal light - a new idea for the color blind (image taken from Yanko Design website).|
|Front and side view of Uni-signal (images taken from Yanko Design website).|
You could well be wondering how much this could help, just as most forum goers did in Drive. First of all, it needs to be understood that why reading a traffic signal proves to be difficult to the color blind. Red is on top, green is at the bottom, so bottom light lit means go, top light lit means stop, right? Not exactly. How do you recognize which is which in a horizontal layout? As a matter of fact, if you are driving in Tipperary Hill, a district of Syracuse, New York, you would be surprised to know that green is on top of red (see the below video and this Wikipedia article).
A surprising layout of traffic signal in Tipperary Hill.
Not all color blind are equally blind - there are numerous types of color blind, and each has their own color recognition problem. According to Drive forum, one of them claimed that as a color blind, he would not recognize at a glance a green light and the surrounding white and yellow lights at night, unless he paid attention to them, which could be difficult during driving.
Of course, there are much comment on the proposed shapes, most mentioning that the shape of a triangle for red light imply the message 'go forward' and may confuse drivers. I believe that this is beyond the point of the design, as the shapes can be changed by individual countries, just as the symbols within the traffic lights and their blinking patterns differ between countries. It is the message imparted from this concept which has drawn my attention - that thoughts are given to the physically challenged to use everyday items that we have taken for granted as user-friendly. This goes to show that improvements are still possible on most items.
In fact, in recognition of this necessity, Quebec, Canada has deployed some of its traffic lights to be in this concept, although they are not following the same shape as proposed in Yanko Design's concept. This reinforces my point that the symbols are dependent on the countries' regulations, and it is the concept that matters.
|Specially shaped traffic light in Quebec, Canada for the color blind (image taken from Autoevolution).|
There are a lot of comments on this design but from my perspective as an engineer, there is a point that I have to admit makes sense. With different designed shape for each light, this means that maintenance cost and part cost would be higher. The reason behind this is because there needs to be 3 different types of covers prepared at all times, as you would not know which one will break down. Manufacturing costs will also increase a little due to the additional 2 shapes' mold. Still, this should not be a major roadblock to improving traffic lights for the color blind.
I personally feel that Uni-signal may not be able to help the color blind drivers much, but again I emphasize that I believe that it is the thoughts and intentions of the designers that is important. As an engineer who worked in companies which prioritized monetary values over society commitment, I am beginning to feel disillusioned. Running across concepts like this one encouraged me to once again embrace my wish to bring value to the society through my engineering passion. Kudos to the designers of Uni-signal!