I’m not sure how much time you’ve spent hanging around with traffic lights, but if you have, you know that they really, really do not give a shit what you think. That’s why if you’re at a red light, honking is useless. It’s like the stop light doesn’t even care how long you’ve been waiting. A lot of people in Mumbai don’t seem to realize this and as a result the Mumbai Police undertook a bold technological experiment to remind people that honking doesn’t help, it just makes life worse.
Mumbai is a sort of traffic hellscape, and the near-constant honking of a symphony of cars, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, and scooters does not help the situation at all. In fact, the barrage of noise pollution just makes the whole situation more maddening for everybody, which is why the Mumbai Police arrived at their clever solution: let the traffic lights hear the honking.
Working with the marketing company FCBInterface, they developed a system called The Punishing Signal that used decimeters and some electronics to determine the decibel level of the ambient honking.
When the honking noise reaches 85 decibels, the timer for the red light resets, forcing everyone to wait a minute-and-a-half more. There’s large displays for both the decibel level and the timer countdown, along with a big illuminated sign that reads “HONK MORE WAIT MORE” so anyone who actually takes the time to look can see what’s going on.
Here’s how it played out:
That looks like it worked pretty well, at least from the standpoint of, you know, punishing drivers for honking so much. As far as how it’s helped traffic, maybe not so much. A travel vlogger based in Mumbai went looking for the Punishing Signal, and found this:
If you watch that to about 3:48, you’ll see that Mumbai police told him that they had to cancel the project because of high traffic in the area, which I guess isn’t really too surprising. It may reappear, but at the moment, it looks like loud honkers will continue to get away with it.
Oh, and while reading about this I also learned that the name for people who live in Mumbai is “Mumbaikars.” So, now you know, too.