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The Process of Restoring a the smARTest Traffic Light

I’ve been into gadgets and computers since before my Middle School years and always wanted an operational Traffic Light in my “Man Cave”.  I eventually retired from a career as a Creative Technologist before choosing to pursue my Photography and Art full-time.

I was fortunate to have acquired a Traffic Light in a condition that caused me to work through a process of specific steps to get it functioning.  First I needed to determine what features the Traffic Light would support in order to determine how big my budget needed to be.

I decided to restore and create a Smart Traffic Light using microcontrollers and a Raspberry Pi microcomputer connected to multiple environmental sensors.

Determining the Effort of Work

I acquired the Traffic Light from a previous owner that attempted to follow his own unique vision using red spray paint and unfortunately covered the light lenses as well.

Susan jumped in successfully using Nail Polish Remover to get all of the red off of the light lenses.  A bit of staining was corrected by wet sanding the lenses, and I actually liked the frosted effect that it produced, and I intended to “Blackout” the lenses anyway.

I scrubbed out a fair amount of salt corrosion, knocked off loose and cracking paint, and gave it a general sanding.  Now it’s ready to be primed.

Ready for Rewiring. Will the Lights Work?

I’m really happy to share that after priming, it looked better than I expected and cleaned up quite well.

I chose the final paint color to be “Candy Burple” that I discovered online.  It’s one of the deepest, riches Blue / Purple colors I’ve seen.

Next, I had to wait on multiple parts from various vendors so I decided to diagram the circuitry needed to connect the Traffic Lights to the Raspberry Pi and sensors.  I’m dealing with high voltage so I needed to find a Solid State Relay to allow me to control when to turn each light on or off at any rate I wish.

I already had an extra Raspberry Pi Zero W, so I started the programing in anticipation of each component.

My mom bought me Erector Sets as a child!

It should be known that all functioning Traffic Lights have controllers in them that, well, control the flow of traffic.  When they are decommissioned, the controllers are typically repurposed, upgraded, or destroyed, and are not usually included in one you may get a hold of.

I successfully built my very own controller that at its core, supports my ability to completely control the light timings and sequences.  I’ve created sensor-enabled modules that give the ability to detect close proximity, determine temperature, and report its GPS location.

It worked perfectly the first time I anxiously plugged it into the wall socket.

The next steps include a budget for upgrades like a LiDar Sensor for better proximity detection and smarter light sequences.  I will be adding addressable Led strip lights around each Traffic Lens that will be controllable and react to music.

I actually shared this journey and attempted to demonstrate its capabilities during the Gig E.A.S.T Gab in Wilson, NC.  Although the Lights worked, the sensors froze, sending me back to the drawing board which has since been corrected.

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