Urban environments can get pretty complicated for motorists. Aside from the usual glut of stop signs, school crossings, and traffic lights, drivers also have to decipher a sometimes contradictory array of parking signs to figure out where they can and can't leave their rides.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that activity along city streets ebbs and flows. During work hours, many streets are being cleaned or repaired. During special events, they can be closed off entirely. On weeknights, they may be as quiet as a Bobby Jindal pep rally. Parking signs have to account for all of that and more.
Thankfully, a company based in Slovenia has a solution for those problems: electronic signage that can be changed in a snap, and it looks a bit like the original Amazon Kindle.
The company is called Visionect. In partnership with the U.S. company E Ink, it's developed a system of solar-powered traffic signs that clear away clutter and display only the most relevant parking information for a given locale.
E Ink is an efficient way to tackle a city's signage needs -- not just because it's changeable, but also because it uses very little power. In fact, Visionect's signs only need a boost of juice when they update their information. As the company's Rok Zalar explains, "The hardware components are managed by server software programmed to 'wake up' the sign for certain pre-scheduled windows of time when the content on the sign will be changed using 3G technology. Outside of the ‘waking’ time, the traffic signs use no power."
The signs are currently being tested in Sydney, Australia -- a perfect market for the trial given the city's crowded streets and abundance of sunshine. The only downside is that the signs are expensive: at the moment, they run about $5,000 AUD ($3,700 US).
Then again, as Visonect points out, a city like Los Angeles can spend $9.5 million a year on temporary traffic signs. Swapping some of those for electronic signage could benefit city budgets -- which wouldn't be a bad thing, given the financial tight spots that lie just around the corner.