Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Sand Glass Traffic Light

            Everyone who takes to the road and drives a car knows the torture that is a traffic light. When the traffic light turns yellow and you are still in motion, you wonder if you can make the the light or you should stop. If you find yourself speeding up to make it past the light but accidently blow the red light, you anxiously look in your rearview mirror to make sure there was no cop waiting to trap a poor soul that makes that mistake. But if you find yourself being cautious and stopping much before the light turns red, there is always an impatient driver right behind you eagerly honking on their horn to let you know you could have made that light. Even when you are stopped at a red light, it seems like an eternity while you are waiting for the light to turn green. What if there was a device that could end this struggle that has afflicted us since we were sixteen years old? Well thanks to the creative genius that is Thanva Tivawong, that can all come to an end.

            The designer Thanva Tivawong created a new form of traffic light. This innovation is called The Sand Glass Traffic Light. The Sand Glass still utilizes the green light, yellow light, and red light model that all drivers are used to seeing but with a very useful flare to the light. Drivers will now see an hourglass shaped light instead of a circular light. The light emulates exactly how an hourglass will work. The amount of light in the top section of the “hourglass” will decrease as time passes to fill up the bottom section with more light. The green light hourglass will also have a countdown to allow the driver to know exactly when the light is going to turn yellow. Most importantly, once the light turns yellow, there will be and hourglass shaped countdown to allow the driver to better judge if he or she should stop or keep driving to pass the light. This new design also has a red light that will let you know exactly when to expect a green light.

This seems like such an obvious design for a traffic light that you wonder why this wasn’t thought of sooner. However, it was Thanva Tivawong that came up with this design after over 100 years of having a traffic lights direct traffic. Tivawong was in “inspired by the traditional sand-filled hourglass and put together some concepts for redesigning the traffic light.” Tivawong utilized an analogy from the use and concept of an hourglass to what can be applied from the hourglass to a traffic light. This recognition of a problem where it was a common belief that there was none is indicative of a creative process, as dictated in the theories of Smith and Ward. Thanva has taken an everyday item that to many is only associated with three different colored circles and created a different form to make something novel.
            The Sand Glass Traffic Light has not yet been seen in the United States. It has been first seen in Estonia, but given its universal use, it will hopefully be seen more commonly in more countries.


Thomas Bernard. Ward, and Steven M. Smith. Creative Cognition: Theory, Research and Applications. Cambridge, Mass: MIT, 1996. Print.


  1. Wow, this is definitely would want to have over here! I know my friends sometimes look at me when I stop too early because I can be paranoid about making that yellow light. It is worth mentioning though that how this is implemented may well revolutionize how we experience driving as well. There would be less angry drivers, a cut back on road rage incident, less accidents would occur. One question though would be how this idea could be perhaps be used for those who are color blind, since that was solved by the standard setup of the order of the traffic lights, with red on the top and green on the bottom.

  2. I think Tivawong did a great job of identifying a problem and issue, and then figuring out an effective way to solve it. The best part is that the change is very minimal, basically changing the shape of the traffic light, and adding a couple features like a timed countdown. When I first thought of this being implemented I thought the countdown would be most helpful by giving drivers an idea of how much time they have before the traffic light changes. In my hometown there are little signs posted a quarter mile before the traffic light that signal to drivers the traffic light will be red by the time they reach it. It has been very helpful to drivers by just making them aware of whether they have time to pass the traffic light or if they should stop. And I think Tivawong's idea is very similar. Traffic lights will continue to be an issue so anything that can help minimize risk is worth a shot. I hope to see these in practice some time in the near future, if not at least tested.

  3. I agree with your analysis that this is an example of solving something that most people wouldn't necessarily identify as a "problem." I never thought about changing the traffic light, I just accepted it to be something so normal that it would never change. Although I think the hourglass idea is interesting, what if a light simply had a countdown next to it like you would see at a crosswalk? It would serve the same purpose without necessarily having to change the entire design.

  4. Traffic lights are another one of those things that people just accept as is. This makes it particularly impressive that Tivawong thought outside the box and improved it. This has the potential to make streets safer for pedestrians and drivers, which is something that society needs. This is innovative and informative, and probably is an example of collaboration- is Tivawong involved in technology and programming of this or is she mostly just responsible for the idea?


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