Newsletter Articles By Michael A. Harrison
President/CEO/Inventor of IRWL Systems ~ LightGuard Systems, Inc.
Genesis of a Public Traffic Safety Product
The year was 1991. I was enjoying a good living as a corporate pilot and Vice President of a medium sized residential home building firm in one of the most beautiful counties in the nation, Sonoma County, in Northern California. Then one day, a tragic accident involving a good friend changed nearly everything in my life, even though this incident didn’t actually “involve” me in any way.
My friend, (A City Public Employee), was on his way home during a dreary misty late Holiday Season afternoon. Out of nowhere, and elderly man on his nightly routine to for ice cream, was crossing in front of him… the man was fatally struck.
Genesis of IRWL Crosswalk Systems
“Authorization to Experiment”
The concept of “In-Pavement Warning Lights” (IRWL’s) at crosswalks was approved by the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) for experimental evaluation.
As part of this evaluation, the City of Santa Rosa, California, agreed in 1993 to have IRWL systems installed at three locations chosen by them. These systems were designed by my newly minted company, “LightGuard Systems, Inc.” I chose a name that would fit the concept of a lighted crossing guard.
The application for a permit from the FHWA mandated “before and after” studies to determine whether the proposed system 1) would work as anticipated and 2) would not create any unforeseen problems for motorists or pedestrians.
Federal Authorization to Proceed
Development of the In-Roadway Warning Light Signal Module
In 1993, I received authorization to experiment from the California Traffic Control Devices Committee (CTCDC) to implement “warning lights” in the road to alert pedestrians to the potential presence of a pedestrian. We presented the concept to the City of Santa Rosa, CA, and the City Council unanimously approved the concept. However, they mandated that we receive the proper authorization to try this novel concept. Both excited and a bit nervous, we now had this Authorization to Experiment, but had no idea of exactly how this device would be produced or how well we could get it to perform!
The City of Santa Rosa offered three locations in which to begin, along with one “beta” test location at the City Corporation Yard that would allow preliminary evaluations. This proved to be most beneficial in getting on the right track very early in the process.
Development of IRWL Systems
The Evolution of Automatic Pedestrian Detection
After LightGuard Systems experienced a high degree of success in having motorists “yield to the presence of a pedestrian” when entering a “Smart Crosswalk” system, one area of interest became more and more apparent to us. The existing system required some form of interaction by the “user” or pedestrian entering the crosswalk. We set out to develop a system that could take this out of the equation, and activate the system automatically or passively without the action or even acknowledgement by the pedestrian that they were entering the crosswalk.
The Evolution of Automatic Activaton.pdf
“Base Plate” Design for In-Roadway Warning Light Systems
Though the topic may seem mundane, the very success of In-Roadway Warning Light (IRWL) Systems depended on the development of a foundation for the in-pavement signal light source, what we call the “Base Plate”.
As holder of an Airline Transport Pilot license and having logged over 7,000 flight hours, I knew the vital importance of runway lighting. Also due to my military experience as an aircraft mechanic, I was very familiar with runway lighting from having worked on many a tarmac servicing planes. So when I came up with the concept of placing some type of lighting in the roadway, I knew that “runway” lighting was not going to be the ultimate choice for many reasons. From the very beginning, we chose to pursue a better path.