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Government The Almighty Buck Transportation United Kingdom

London Hacked Its Own Traffic Lights To Make Sure It Got the Olympics 202

bmsleight writes "Does it count as a hack if you change your own system? Vanity Fair report that during the bidding process for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the London Streets Traffic Control Center followed each vehicle using CCTV, 'and when they came up to traffic lights,' [bid committee CEO Keith] Mills said, 'we turned them green.'"
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London Hacked Its Own Traffic Lights To Make Sure It Got the Olympics

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  • by santax ( 1541065 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @10:14AM (#39985721)
    Last thing any sane person would want is being constantly followed. Now we know the Brits are willing to do this if they think they can get something out of it. So far for privacy. Oh and next time you're in the car with your pregnant wife trying to get to an hospital but can't because the lights are red... Well, the police chief is probably on his way home and needed the lights to be green...
  • by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Sunday May 13, 2012 @10:19AM (#39985755) Homepage

    It's "Potemkin village".

  • Still better than (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hentes ( 2461350 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @10:23AM (#39985783)

    closing down the whole street for the convoy.

  • Olympics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @10:29AM (#39985811)

    Cancel it, it sucks.

  • by mschaffer ( 97223 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @10:39AM (#39985877)

    It's not's optimization.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @10:50AM (#39985941)
    The little people get to wait for the important people -- like the Olympic committee, or in the future perhaps anyone with enough money -- when the city changes its traffic patterns for them. After all, it is not really equality if the important people have to wait for red lights just like everyone else, right?

    As for emergency vehicles, I live in a small city right now that manages to give them green lights without a special CCTV system. Each traffic light has a sensor that detects sirens/flashers and changes the light appropriately; it may sound surprising, but this is actually a reliable, well-engineered system.

    We have big events here too -- the college football team's games draw big crowds from neighboring towns. CCTV is not needed for that either; police can simply disable traffic lights at appropriate locations and direct traffic as needed. Perhaps this is more than London could be expected to do, given how large of a city they are, but somehow I doubt it -- they have a much larger police force than we have.

    Really, the benefit of the CCTV system for traffic control is overstated here. What London is really showing the world is that when important people are in their city, they can give those people priority as if they were an emergency vehicle, and they can do so discretely. People might complain if police officers started waving through businessmen and politicians, but nobody can complain about the light changing, and there is no need for rich people to attach flashers to their cars.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @10:51AM (#39985953)

    Brits? As in we, the people? Do you honestly think we asked to be spied upon? Protip: Nobody here really gives a crap about the Olympic games. It's been made a mockery of all over the media for wasting public money and for the fact that we're hosting the events and nobody actually knows anybody else that's allowed to go. It's going to cause mass disruption to the transport systems for millions of commuters, not to mention the mess the visitors themselves are going to make, and it's also predicited that the majority of new buildings and structures being created for this joke of an event will go to waste as soon as it's over.

    So I ask you again... do you truly believe that the British public volunteered to be spied on, just to increase the odds of having this happen to them? If you're talking specifically about the government, please say so, but I can guarantee ours isn't that much different to anyone elses.

  • by santax ( 1541065 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @11:03AM (#39986007)
    Neh you are right, it's just that we are being told by our personal overlords "yes but in the UK they also have cctv and it's working great". But in no way did I mean the average Brit. I like those!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @11:04AM (#39986017)

    No, You're confusing the UK for the EU, please list one thing the EU has done that smacks of big brother, and no the EU data retention directive doesn't count (Tony BLiar was responsible for that one!) They have rejected ACTA too! The very law that your dumbass president signed! go figure!

  • by bmsleight ( 710084 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @11:04AM (#39986025) Homepage

    (Article Submitter)
    The person who wrote the first Italian Job got the idea from London's first traffic control system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @11:39AM (#39986227)

    So? Its a simple fact that politics across the globe is so fucked up that you can't get anywhere without being corrupt and in the pocket of some well funded group.
    Every person who takes that office will end up screwing you so pointing out "look hes the same as everyone else" is just a waste of time. Why blame the pieces when the rules of the game are broken?

  • Re:Scary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by asdf7890 ( 1518587 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @11:54AM (#39986321)
    Changing traffic lights is small fry. To even be permitted bid, potential host countries must enact laws to protect the commercial interests of the Olympics. I find it quite distasteful that we are paying billions (which could be much better used, especially in the current economic climate) to host their little jamboree and we bent over the barrel and let us dictate tweaks to part of our legal system.

    Big companies like Apple and Google can do similar things of course: governments all over the world tweak employment and tax policies in order to make themselves more attractive ares to invest in, but the difference there is that (IMO at least) the benefits (employment and commercial investment momentum) are likely to hang around for a far longer term.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @12:06PM (#39986387)

    We're going to do this again?

    I've been lucky enough to do a fair amount of traveling, to nations wealthy and poor. I've sat through little chats with foreign ambassadors, members of parliament, UN representatives, and local political leaders on a few continents (no, I'm nobody special). I've lived with families in four countries with dramatically different ways of life, sleeping in their homes, eating breakfast with them, going grocery shopping, playing soccer, taking the goats out or hanging laundry in old soviet apartment housing... whatever.

    But if my fortunate little opportunities taught me only one thing, it's that we're all only human. And by extension, that there's a strikingly even distribution of clever people and total herp-derp, everywhere.* Also that it's strangely comforting to know that, for all the differences we celebrate or fight over, everyone has a neighbor that's a jackass.

    * It's worth admitting that none of those countries were tied up in violent civil war, open slave trade, eugenics, etc. while I was there. I'm sure that'd change my opinion of humankind for the worse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:03PM (#39986767)

    D. The Olympics is a nightmare.

    It starts soon after your city has won their bid to host. It sucks the soul out of local culture, as all sponsors start saving up for the event. It makes people super greedy as they think everybody will become mega-rich off the Olympics. It sucks the money out of the city and the country to put into "security..." And after the event, you keep on paying for all those new venues that have little use outside the Olympics, for many many years until they fall apart from disuse.

    If your city wins the bid to host the Olympics, my advice: Move Out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @01:38PM (#39987069)

    Because emphasizing specific individual pieces allows one to feel like the flaw doesn't go down to the core of the system. They can then feel better about interacting with it; they feel their participation is worthwhile. They feel like they have some control. It is an emotional defense of sorts.

  • by bluemonq ( 812827 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @03:10PM (#39987819)

    Oh, you mean British citizens also don't want to be held accountable for their government's actions, just like American citizens? Who knew?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:16PM (#39988443)

    Increasingly, it's the difference actually getting proper healthcare and dying because you can't afford the treatment or preventative care you need.

  • by bky1701 ( 979071 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @04:45PM (#39988671) Homepage
    They're your government, they're your responsibility. Sorry, but those are the breaks. Don't like being embarrassed internationally? Stand up for your's and others' rights. I wish Americans would learn this lesson, but at least we're not as bad as TFA yet....
  • Brits? As in we, the people? Do you honestly think we asked to be spied upon?

    Yes, you did it just as we in the USA asked for the TSA... we did nothing when they foist it upon us. We didn't even fucking stop flying, let alone holding some kind of protest. You and we both deserve what we've got in the sense that we have more to do to prevent it.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @06:12PM (#39989323)

    So you'll be rejecting any help from the nanny state fire service if your house is burning down. And the nanny state police if you're a victim of crime. After all you're a self reliant human being.

    No, I didn't think so.

    That's right, there is NO difference between providing these 3 public services as state services or private services. Yet you accept two of them and call the third names.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Sunday May 13, 2012 @08:13PM (#39990149)

    Since we're on Slashdot, and aware that there isn't just one definition of free, lets start with:

    It's free as in beer.

    Somebody is playing for it. Probably some person(s) or company that can easily afford it has paid for it. Maybe in the bigger scheme of things you might have put in a contribution. But at the time you draw the draft of frothy ale, no one is asking you for change. If you don't have your wallet with you, you still get the beer. If you're too poor to afford it, you still get the beer. Everyone gets beer.

    Of course with beer that's a trivial thing. And you might argue that not everyone deserves it.

    But everyone does deserve to be treated if they are seriously ill or have had an accident. It's an uncivilised country which if affluent, yet doesn't give proper medical treatment to the poor. It's an uncivilized country if you can lose your right to be treated if you lose your job.

    But free as in beer is not what we call it. It's "healthcare free at the point of delivery". And it's the sign of more civilized country.

    And what does it cost Americans for their uncivilized approach to healthcare. They pay 2.5 times as much per capita as Britains do. And it's still doesn't treat everyone. It's an uncivilized AND more expensive system. How dumb is that?

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @02:43AM (#39992119)

    and some of those silly Americans want Mitt to be President

    I don't particularly want Mitt to be president.

    I just want they guy who took a ton of money from BP and Goldman Sachs to NOT be president.

    Did Mitt bribe anyone to get the olympics? Possibly. But child's play next to the things Obama has done with funds going to "green" energy companies run by large Democratc donors that were doomed to go bankrupt in the end... not to mention Obama using all our money now and in the future to bail out his pals at Goldman.

    You may complain about Mitt's naive political corruption, but you are ignoring the elephant sitting on your face to do so - forgive us if your complaints seem a bit muffled.

  • by dissy ( 172727 ) on Monday May 14, 2012 @07:14AM (#39993115)

    Exactly. Standard procedure is to close down the roads and block off the intersections, so it doesn't matter if the lights are green or not since the convoy will be the only ones on that road.

    After the mess that makes out of traffic changing the traffic lights for the few minutes needed is only a minor disrupt to traffic, no more than if an ambulance or police vehicle had their lights/siren running and needed to run light.

    This seems like the least annoying method compared to ones used in the past.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"