The Man Who Invented Intelligent Traffic Control a Century Too Early

With traffic accidents soaring, Charles Adler imagined an intelligent transportation system that was ahead of its time

12 min read
Adler demonstrates one of his automated safety systems.
Sound Off: Adler demonstrates one of his automated safety systems, which triggered a light when a car passed over a sound detector in the road.
Photo: Charles Adler, Jr. Collection/Archives Center/National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

On a cool December day in 1925, Charles Adler Jr. stood beside Falls Road, a state highway on Baltimore’s north side. He was there to test his latest invention: an electromagnetic apparatus that would automatically slow cars traveling at unsafe speeds. Adler had embedded magnetic plates in the road where it led into a precarious curve, and he was now waiting for a specially prepared car to drive over the magnets. The magnets would activate a speed governor connected to the vehicle’s engine, slowing it to 24 kilometers per hour.

Adler had developed this automatic speed-control system for railroad crossings, the scene of many deadly accidents at the time. But he soon came to imagine all sorts of applications for it: “Dangerous road intersections, streets on which schools are located, bad curves, and even steep down grades,” according to an article in the Baltimore News.

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Video Friday: Drone in a Cage

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

3 min read
A drone inside of a protective geometric cage flies through a dark rain

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your friends at IEEE Spectrum robotics. We also post a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months. Please send us your events for inclusion.

ICRA 2022: 23 May–27 May 2022, PHILADELPHIA
IEEE ARSO 2022: 28 May–30 May 2022, LONG BEACH, CALIF.
RSS 2022: 21 June–1 July 2022, NEW YORK CITY
ERF 2022: 28 June–30 June 2022, ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
RoboCup 2022: 11 July–17 July 2022, BANGKOK
IEEE CASE 2022: 20 August–24 August 2022, MEXICO CITY
CLAWAR 2022: 12 September–14 September 2022, AZORES, PORTUGAL

Enjoy today’s videos!

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Remembering 1982 IEEE President Robert Larson

He was a supporter of several IEEE programs including Smart Village

3 min read
A photo of two men in suits.  One behind the other.

Robert Larson [left] with IEEE Life Fellow Eric Herz, who served as IEEE general manager and executive director.

IEEE History Center

Robert E. Larson, 1982 IEEE president, died on 10 March at the age of 83.

An active volunteer who held many high-level positions throughout the organization, Larson was the 1975–1976 president of the IEEE Control Systems Society and also served as IEEE Foundation president.

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