Mats Jarlstrom lives in Beaverton, OR and he may soon change the world…traffic lights, and perhaps self-driving cars.

You’ve heard about this gentleman before, I’m sure.  Jarlstrom’s legal case against Oregon’s engineering board has been in the news for several years now.  The Swedish national has been fighting for the legal right to call himself an “Engineer” here in the U.S.

Jarlstrom has notched a big court victory in recent days.  So, good for him.  He can call himself an engineer now — and publish his work.

What’s more fascinating to me about Mr. Jarlstrom is his new found passion for traffic lights, specifically yellow traffic lights.  I’ve learned the subject of “yellow light timing” attracts a lot of debate within the traffic engineering community.  Mr. Jarlstrom got into it almost by accident.  His wife got tagged and ticketed by a red-light camera in Beaverton several years ago.

In the years since he began researching the issue of “yellow light timing”, Jarlstrom seems to have stumbled upon a breakthrough.

Jarlstrom insisted to me, as he’s insisted to others, the math which traffic engineers are using to set “yellow light timing” is incorrect and, more specifically, incomplete.

In fact, Jarlstrom says the math has been wrong for more than half a century.

Jarlstrom argues that the current mathematical formula which is central to timing the transition between a yellow light and a red light — doesn’t account for a driver slowing down…to make a turn.

He’s basically arguing for longer yellow lights.

However, beyond that, Jarlstrom believes his new formula could be a huge help in the development of self-driving cars.

After all, when our cars are driving themselves, we will want them making nice smooth, safe turns and be able to understand how much time they have on a yellow light to execute those turns.

Jarlstrom believes his math will be key in helping automated vehicle manufacturers solve this problem.

Jarlstrom says he’s submitted his work to the Institute for Traffic Engineers and he says the group is reviewing his findings now.