Why Traffic Lights Hate Heavy Rain; Rainfall Often Causes Chaos at Robots. Does the Answer Lie with Alternative Energy Sources?

Cape Times (South Africa), November 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Why Traffic Lights Hate Heavy Rain; Rainfall Often Causes Chaos at Robots. Does the Answer Lie with Alternative Energy Sources?


BYLINE: Minesh Bhagaloo

WHAT is it about robots and their severe allergy towards rain?

Wet weather leaves a regular wake of traffic chaos, with the absence of working robots around the Mother City a specific sore point. Surely these simple devices, made up of lights, timer switches and cabling, should be suitably waterproofed to take on the weather gods? And besides the obvious delay and frustration, robots (or traffic lights) being out of order also pose other risks like accidents and smash and grab opportunities.

We're told there are various reasons why traffic signals go out when it rains, amongst others it is due to power supply outages, vehicle accidents, lightning strikes, and old cabling with insulation cracks that let water in causing short circuits.

With age older lead cables have deteriorated, and rain tends to damage the unprotected conductors. The problem is worsened by cable theft and underground work by big construction companies.

But there may be some green light at the end of the tunnel.

Many intersection's robots have already been re-cabled, major intersections are monitored for breakdowns via a GPRS system, and routine maintenance to older networks is ongoing.

The real answer may also lie in alternative energy sources.

The council has started a plan for robots to consume less energy through the removal of robots from the Eskom electricity grid to alternative energy sources.

The National Energy Efficiency Agency (NEEA), an arm of the Central Energy Fund, launched the Sustainable Traffic Solutions Initiative that employs the use of two solutions - solar power and UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) systems. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the number of robot disruptions. …

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