If we're obsessed by green technology these days, why is it that street lights shine so bright, all night? Faced with that question, a team of researchers from the Institut Teknologi Bandun, Indonesia, decided to develop an automatic road lighting system, activated by traffic movement.
But their initial working model was slightly less sophisticated than their concept: it was made up of toy cars and a model vehicle track.
Using a simple video camera mounted above the track, they capture the motion of the toy cars as they move along the make-shift road. By analysing the video in real time, the team can measure the speed and position of the vehicle, intelligently switching on road lights ahead of the vehicle and turning off lights behind it.
The report that they can accurately switch the lights on and off when the cars move at speeds of up to 1.32 m/s. Though they don't mention it in their work, if my childhood is anything to go by, these toy cars are probably 1:43 scale. A little back-of-the-envelope mathematics shows that their 1.32 m/s would equate to speeds of up to a staggering - and in most countries, illegal - 127 mph in real life.
So, while it might be child's play at its current scale, the technology could one day illuminate even the fastest of drivers.
Read more at arXiv: http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.0845