Title:
Directional highway buoy
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An improved highway barricade light, with increased visibility and operational life span that can be installed on a common traffic channelizer, without preventing the stacking of the channelizer. A base with hand-hold features is attached to the top of a traffic channelizer. The base holds a rechargeable power supply, control circuitry, switch, solar cell and a photoresistor. A reflector ring attaches to the base and holds an array of light emitting diodes (LED) circumferentially around the device. The LED's can be controlled to create a variety of flashing patterns to direct motorists, including, but not limited to, constant burn, flashing, clockwise, counter-clockwise, upward, downward and random. A transparent or translucent cover attaches to the base to protect the components, and may be flat, conical or dome shaped.



Inventors:
Frey, Steven J. (Dearborn Heights, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/374264
Publication Date:
09/14/2006
Filing Date:
03/13/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01F9/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HARTMANN, GARY S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Steven J. Frey (Dearborn Heights, MI, US)
Claims:
Having thus described the invention, what is desired to be protected by Letters Patent is presented in the subsequently appended claims.

1. A directional highway buoy for providing motorists warning indications and information while approaching and driving through construction zones, comprising: means for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; means for retaining the device to a common traffic channelizer; means for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes, rigidly secured to said means for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; means for the detection of darkness, functionally connected to said means for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes; means for selecting the operational mode for the device, functionally connected to said means for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes; means for providing power to light emitting diodes, functionally connected to said means for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes, and generally supported to said means for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; means for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes around the device in a radial arrangement while providing a means to reflect and focus light in an outward direction, coaxially fitted to said means for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; means for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes in a vertical pattern, circumferentially retained to said means for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes around the device in a radial arrangement while providing a means to reflect and focus light in an outward direction; means for producing visible light, securely mounted to said means for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes in a vertical pattern, and functionally connected to said means for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes; means for producing electricity to power light emitting diodes and recharging a battery, functionally connected to said means for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes, and generally supported to said means for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; means for protecting internal components from the environment or vandalizim, firmly fastened to said means for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; and means for retaining a cover to a base.

2. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer comprises a circular base.

3. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for retaining the device to a common traffic channelizer comprises a substantially long, threaded fastener.

4. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes comprises a printed circuit board controller.

5. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for the detection of darkness comprises a photoresistor.

6. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for selecting the operational mode for the device comprises a multi-position selector switch.

7. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for providing power to light emitting diodes comprises a rechargable battery.

8. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes around the device in a radial arrangement while providing a means to reflect and focus light in an outward direction comprises a circular reflector ring.

9. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes in a vertical pattern comprises an LED retainer.

10. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for producing visible light comprises a light emitting diode.

11. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for producing electricity to power light emitting diodes and recharging a battery comprises a solar cell.

12. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for protecting internal components from the environment or vandalizim comprises a translucent or transparent cover.

13. The directional highway buoy in accordance with claim 1, wherein said means for retaining a cover to a base comprises a screw.

14. A directional highway buoy for providing motorists warning indications and information while approaching and driving through construction zones, comprising: a circular base, for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; a substantially long, threaded fastener, for retaining the device to a common traffic channelizer; a printed circuit board controller, for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes, rigidly secured to said base; a photoresistor, for the detection of darkness, functionally connected to said controller; a multi-position selector switch, for selecting the operational mode for the device, functionally connected to said controller; a rechargable battery, for providing power to light emitting diodes, functionally connected to said controller, and generally supported to said base; a circular reflector ring, for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes around the device in a radial arrangement while providing a means to reflect and focus light in an outward direction, coaxially fitted to said base; an LED retainer, for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes in a vertical pattern, circumferentially retained to said reflector ring; a light emitting diode, for producing visible light, securely mounted to said LED retainer, and functionally connected to said controller; a solar cell, for producing electricity to power light emitting diodes and recharging a battery, functionally connected to said controller, and generally supported to said base; a translucent or transparent cover, for protecting internal components from the environment or vandalizim, firmly fastened to said base; and a screw, for retaining a cover to a base.

15. The directional highway buoy as recited in claim 14, wherein said reflector ring has characteristics selected from the following group: contains a plurality of dish or conical surfaces, and mirrored and/or reflectorized surface finish.

16. The directional highway buoy as recited in claim 14, wherein said LED retainer is printed circuit board.

17. The directional highway buoy as recited in claim 14, wherein said cover is flat, domed or conical.

18. The directional highway buoy as recited in claim 14, wherein said screw is tamper-resistant.

19. A directional highway buoy for providing motorists warning indications and information while approaching and driving through construction zones, comprising: a circular base, for positioning and mounting the device to the top of a common traffic channelizer and provide hand-holds for lifting the traffic channelizer; a substantially long, threaded fastener, for retaining the device to a common traffic channelizer; a printed circuit board controller, for accepting power from a solar cell, battery and photoresistor, controlling the recharging of a battery and the operational cycle, flash rate and sequence of a plurality of light emitting diodes, rigidly secured to said base; a photoresistor, for the detection of darkness, functionally connected to said controller; a multi-position selector switch, for selecting the operational mode for the device, functionally connected to said controller; a rechargable battery, for providing power to light emitting diodes, functionally connected to said controller, and generally supported to said base; a circular, contains a plurality of dish or conical surfaces, mirrored and/or reflectorized surface finish reflector ring, for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes around the device in a radial arrangement while providing a means to reflect and focus light in an outward direction, coaxially fitted to said base; a printed circuit board LED retainer, for retaining and arranging a plurality of light emitting diodes in a vertical pattern, circumferentially retained to said reflector ring; a light emitting diode, for producing visible light, securely mounted to said LED retainer, and functionally connected to said controller; a solar cell, for producing electricity to power light emitting diodes and recharging a battery, functionally connected to said controller, and generally supported to said base; a translucent or transparent, flat, domed or conical cover, for protecting internal components from the environment or vandalizim, firmly fastened to said base; and a tamper-resistant screw, for retaining a cover to a base.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application is a continuation-in-part application of U.S. provisional patent application, Ser. No. 60/661,561, filed Mar. 14, 2005, for DIRECTIONAL HIGHWAY BUOY, by Steven J. Frey, included by reference herein and for which benefit of the priority date is hereby claimed.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to construction barricade lights and, more particularly, to light emitting devices that provide motorists with information regarding speed, direction and avoidance of hazards.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Traffic channelizing devices (channelizers) are used at the present time to warn and alert drivers of roadway hazards created by work activity in or near the traveled way and to direct traffic along a desired route and safely past these hazards. A series of traffic channelizers may be positioned one after another along the roadway to channel traffic in a construction zone from one or more lanes into fewer lanes. Metal drums have been replaced by plastic traffic channelizers like those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,952,690 for many reasons, including the plastic channelizer's ability to be stacked, thus reducing storage space. Additionally, channelizer mounted light units, commonly called barricade lights, are required to be used in virtually every road construction project in order to warn and alert motorists generally to the presence of the construction zone. These lights are configured to operate in either a steady burn mode or in a flashing mode. Current barricade lights, although familiar to most drivers, are not without their flaws.

Most barricade lights in use today are similar to those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,818,439, consisting of an incandescent light bulb, inside a unidirectional lens housing, and powered by two six-volt zinc-carbon lantern batteries. Since these batteries must be replaced after every 250 hours of service (for steady burn lights) or 1000 hours of service (for flashing lights), considerable expenses are incurred for both the purchase of new batteries, and the maintenance labor costs, not to mention the physical danger to maintenance workers in active construction zones.

The safety barricade industry is currently the single largest user of zinc-carbon lantern batteries, and uses millions of those batteries each year. According to the United States Battery Act, 1996, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends disposal of zinc-carbon batteries in common municipal waste incinerators or landfills. When incinerated, hazardous heavy metals vaporize into the air and pollute lakes and streams. These same heavy metals can also leach from solid waste landfills. In either case, poisonous compounds make their way into the food chain, causing serious health risks to humans and animals. Mild symptoms of poisoning by these compounds can be coughing, headaches, and vomiting. Children are the most highly affected by the metals, with effects such as damage to their central nervous system, seizures, and perhaps even mental retardation.

In addition to the health risks to the population, the use of common barricade lights are not enough to safeguard motorists. On Feb. 10, 2004, the Savannah Morning News reported, “The Georgia State Patrol said a 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier driven by John Walls, 18, hit a construction barrel about 8:30 PM and swerved toward an embankment at Exit 67. The vehicle rolled over several times and stopped at the bottom of the ramp.” Mr. Walls' brother, Harley, 20, of Middleburg, Fla. was pronounced dead on the scene. Although barricade lights are required by law at nearly every road construction work zone, more than 40,000 people are injured each year as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. The number of persons killed in the U.S. in motor vehicle crashes in work zones has risen from 872 in 1999 to 1,028 in 2003 (an average of 1,020 fatalities a year). Traffic experts believe much of the increase can be attributed to the proliferation of road renovation and expansion projects as states take advantage of an increase in federal funds available for road work, and will continue to increase.

Another shortcoming of typical barricade lights like those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,818,439, is that the light emitted by these devices is normally seen in only one direction. Traffic control lamps and warning lamps need to emit light in an omni-direction in order to properly signal those approaching the lamps from all directions and conditions. Additionally, physiological studies show that flashing lights draw attention more than steady state lights, however a number of flashing warning lights when used in conjunction with channelizers, flash randomly or indiscriminately presenting a confusing fire-fly type scene to the approaching driver and do not provide any direction or delineation, and may actually create additional distractions and danger to motorists.

Barricade lights currently being employed on an industry wide basis, are designed around the use of an incandescent bulb as the light source. The average life of an incandescent bulb used under ideal conditions is only 400 hours and the bulbs tend to burn out at different and very unpredictable rates. Everyday environmental conditions such as variations in temperature, voltage, shock and vibrations shorten the bulb's life span.

The combination of consumable batteries and light bulbs limit the life span of each barricade light to but a few months. Additionally the very use of these lights negate the benefits of using plastic channelizers, by preventing the stacking of the channelizer with the light attached, and as a result, many channelizers are put into service on the road without the installation of a barricade light, even though they are required by law in most situations.

In addition to the aforementioned barricade light as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,818,439, other barricade lights have been developed. To attempt to address the concerns of battery usage, U.S. Pat. No. D254,658 discloses a device which makes use of solar cells to recharge internal batteries. The configuration shown, which is similar to other solar powered devices, may be prone to accumulation of dirt and moisture when exposed to the elements resulting in decreased solar efficiency due to the flat horizontal upper surface of the solar cell array, which is exposed to the environment, thus significantly reducing its effectiveness. To address this specific issue, devices such as the one disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,772,990 place the solar cells inside the body of the device, but due to the limitation of the overall package space of such an arrangement, the size of the solar cells must be kept at a minimum, thus drastically reducing their potential electrical output and effectiveness.

To increase the life span and reliability of their illumination function, some barricade lights, like the one disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,841,278, eliminate the use of incandescent light bulbs in favor of longer lasting, more efficient light-emitting diodes (LED)'s. Although more cost effective and environmentally friendly than common barricade lights, solar-powered devices using LED's, like the one disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,841,278 only address longevity, and do not increase, nor provide nearly enough, visibility or information to properly guide motorists through construction work zones.

In an attempt to better control the flashing of multiple barricade lights, devices like one disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,132,983 synchronize an array of barricade lights to flash simultaneously. From a driver's perspective, the visual stimulus of an entire lane of barricade lights turning on and off at the same time could potentially cause a hypnotic or distracting effect, and actually do more harm than good. To mitigate this risk, controllers such as the one disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,938,080 cause barricade lights to flash in a predetermined sequence. Although an improvement, this system only provides motorists with improved depth perception, and does nothing to provide direction or speed information. Additionally, if the arrangement of channelizers along the roadside is not in a precise enough manner, or worse re-arranged out of sequence, such flashing lights could provide the very fire-fly type scene the device is attempting to avoid.

At the present time, we have no knowledge of a traffic control element and, in particular, a barricade light with a perpetual life span, safe for the environment, highly visible without being distracting to drivers, providing directional information, and with the ability to be permanently attached to a channelizer without preventing the channelizer from being stacked.

It is therefore an object of the invention to provide a highway barricade light.

It is another object of the invention to provide a highway barricade light with a plurality of flashing lights, circumferentially located around the device. The flashing lights can be configured and controlled to flash in a number of predetermined sequences. Depending on the sequence and flash rate, an approaching motorist would perceive movement, in a particular direction.

It is another object of the invention to provide a highway barricade light with a power supply that can be recharged with solar energy.

It is another object of the invention to provide a highway barricade light with a photoresistor to turn the light on at dusk, and off at dawn, if desired.

It is another object of the invention to provide a highway barricade light with a transparent or translucent cover or dome to protect the internal components.

It is another object of the invention to provide a highway barricade light that may be attached to the top of a traffic channelizer in such a manner that the channelizer may be stacked with the device attached.

It is another object of the invention to provide a highway barricade light with hand-hold features so that the device can be lifted by itself or when attached to a traffic channelizer.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, there is provided an improved highway barricade light, with increased visibility and operational life span that can be installed on a common traffic channelizer, without preventing the stacking of the channelizer. A base with hand-hold features is attached to the top of a traffic channelizer. The base holds a rechargeable power supply, control circuitry, switch, solar cell and a photoresistor. A reflector ring attaches to the base and holds an array of light emitting diodes (LED) circumferentially around the device. The LED's can be controlled to create a variety of flashing patterns to direct motorists, including, but not limited to, constant burn, flashing, clockwise, counter-clockwise, upward, downward and random. A transparent or translucent cover attaches to the base to protect the components, and may be flat, conical or dome shaped.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A complete understanding of the present invention may be obtained by reference to the accompanying drawings, when considered in conjunction with the subsequent, detailed description, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a directional highway buoy as installed on a common traffic channelizer;

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a directional highway buoy showing its internal arrangements and illustrating optional mounting method to a common traffic channelizer;

FIG. 3 is a front section view of a directional highway buoy having front and rear views the same;

FIG. 4 is a side partial section view of a pair of traffic channelizers, each with a directional highway buoy installed, being stacked one on top of another;

FIG. 5 is a schematic view of a directional highway buoy electrical diagram;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a road construction work zone with a plurality of traffic channelizers and direction highways buoys being deployed;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a road construction work zone with a plurality of traffic channelizers and direction highways buoys being deployed; and

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a road construction work zone with a plurality of traffic channelizers and direction highways buoys being deployed.

For purposes of clarity and brevity, like elements and components will bear the same designations and numbering throughout the Figures.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a directional highway buoy 10 as installed on a common traffic channelizer 12.

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a directional highway buoy 10 showing its internal arrangements and illustrating optional mounting method to a common traffic channelizer 12. The base 14 is generally circular or disk shaped, being of similar size and shape as the top of a traffic channelizer 12. The base 14 may be made from a single component, or may be made of several individual parts suitably fastened, welded or glued together. The base 14 may be made from plastic, metal, or any suitable material. A fastener 16 is passed through a hole 46 in the base 14 and a mount hole 48 in the traffic channelizer 12, and is secured with a nut 18, to retain the base 14 to the traffic channelizer 12. The base 14 provides support and retains the controller 20, battery 26, reflector ring 28, solar cell 34 and cover 36.

The selector switch 24 and photoresistor 22 may be attached directly to the controller 20 as shown in FIG. 2, but may also be mounted directly on the base 14, or any other suitable location to allow proper operation of the selector switch 24 and photoresistor 22. The reflector ring 28 may be made from a single component or several individual parts as shown in FIG. 2. The reflector ring 28 retains a plurality of LED retainer 30 circumferentially around the device. The LED retainer 30 retains a plurality of light emitting diode 32, the pattern of which made be, but not limited to a vertical arrangement. The reflector ring 28 is shaped to provide a plurality of reflector 44 to reflect and focus light in an outward direction. The reflector ring 28 may be made of plastic or metal and may be, but not necessarily, finished in a mirrored or reflective surface.

The cylindrical cover 36 is to be made from a translucent or transparent material and can be, but not limited to, a flat, conical or domed shaped top. The cover 36 is retained to the base 14 with a plurality of screw 38 which may be, but not necessarily, tamper-resistant.

FIG. 3 is a front section view of a directional highway buoy 10 having front and rear views the same. The base 14 is shaped to provide one or more optional hand-hold 40. A switch access hole 42 is also provided in the base 14 to allow access for a secondary tool 54 such as, but not limited to, a screwdriver for the manipulation of the selector switch 24.

FIG. 4 is a side partial section view of a pair of traffic channelizer 12, each with a directional highway buoy 10 installed, being stacked one on top of another.

FIG. 5 is a schematic view of a directional highway buoy 10 electrical diagram. During daylight hours, sunlight passes through the cover 36 and strikes the photoresistor 22 and the solar cell 34, which are wired to the controller 20. The photoresistor 22 senses the amount of ambient light, and sends an electrical signal to the controller 20, to indicate whether it is day or night.

During daylight hours, the solar cell 34 produces electricity which is passed to the controller 20. The controller 20 supplies electricity to the battery 26 to charge the battery 26, and deactivates the plurality of light emitting diode 32.

At night, the solar cell 34 stops producing electricity, and the controller 20 draws electricity from the battery 26 to provide electrical power to a plurality of light emitting diode 32.

Depending on the position of the Selector switch 24, the controller 20 turns the plurality of light emitting diode 32 on or off, depending on the desired effect. The device can be set to turn off all light emitting diode 32, in the case of storage or transport of the device. The device can be set to turn on all light emitting diode 32, in the case of a constant burn application. The circumferential and vertical array of the plurality of light emitting diode 32 also allows the controller 20 to create a variety of flash patterns. The patterns include, but not necessarily limited to the following; sequential clockwise, sequential counter-clockwise, vertical upward direction, vertical downward direction, or random.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a road construction work zone. A plurality of traffic channelizer 12 with directional highway buoy 10 are placed on the roadway 50. When the directional highway buoy 10 is set to flash the light emitting diode 32 in a counter-clockwise direction as shown, the visual effect, as seen from the approaching motor vehicle 52 is a sequentially flashing light from left to right. The driver of the motor vehicle 52 is visually directed to the right, regardless of the alignment of the traffic channelizer 12 on the roadway 50. Because the plurality of light emitting diode 32 are arranged circumferentially around the device, the same visual stimulus is received by all motor vehicle 52, regardless of their direction of travel.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a road construction work zone. A plurality of traffic channelizer 12 with directional highway buoy 10 are placed on the roadway 50. When the directional highway buoy 10 is set to flash the light emitting diode 32 in a clockwise direction as shown, the visual effect, as seen from the approaching motor vehicle 52 is a sequentially flashing light from right to left. The driver of the motor vehicle 52 is visually directed to the left, regardless of the alignment of the traffic channelizer 12 on the roadway 50. Because the plurality of light emitting diode 32 are arranged circumferentially around the device, the channelizer does not need to be placed on the roadway 50 in any particular orientation, as the same visual stimulus is received by all motor vehicle 52, regardless of the orientation or alignment of the traffic channelizer 12.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a road construction work zone. A plurality of traffic channelizer 12 with directional highway buoy 10 are placed on the roadway 50. When the directional highway buoy 10 is set to flash the light emitting diode 32 in a top to bottom, or downward, direction as shown, the visual effect, as seen from the approaching motor vehicle 52 is a sequentially flashing light from top to bottom. The driver of the motor vehicle 52 is visually directed down, which would indicate a need to reduce speed. Because the plurality of light emitting diode 32 are arranged circumferentially around the device, the same visual stimulus is received by all motor vehicle 52, regardless of their direction of travel, or the orientation or alignment of the traffic channelizer 12.

FIGS. 6-8 illustrate only a few of the combinations of traffic channelizer 12 layouts and directional highway buoy 10 flash patterns possible, and are in no way intended to illustrate the only layouts and patterns possible. By combining several traffic channelizer 12 and directional highway buoy 10 flash patterns, traffic can be easily and safely directed to avoid hazards, merge and shift travel lanes, and reduce speed.

Since other modifications and changes varied to fit particular operating requirements and environments will be apparent to those skilled in the art, the invention is not considered limited to the example chosen for purposes of disclosure, and covers all changes and modifications which do not constitute departures from the true spirit and scope of this invention.