A Macomb County Department of Roads worker installs JVIS-made heaters on a traffic signal light in November 2023.

A Macomb County Department of Roads worker installs JVIS-made heaters on a traffic signal light in November 2023.

Photo provided by JVIS USA

Roads department trials new traffic light technology

By: Dean Vaglia | C&G Newspapers | Published March 1, 2024


MACOMB COUNTY — Despite some odd winter weather, cold-weather traffic safety concerns have not melted away.

The Macomb County Department of Roads has teamed up with Sterling Heights-based manufacturer JVIS USA to pilot a new piece of technology to keep road users safely moving in snowy weather. Three intersections along Jefferson Avenue have had half their traffic signal lights outfitted with JVIS CoreHeat heaters around the lights, which aim to keep snow and ice from blocking the signals.

“Unlike the incandescent light bulbs that were in traffic signal lights predominantly up until a few years back, the new lighting systems are all LED-based,” said Bryan Santo, director of the Macomb County Department of Roads. “The incandescents previously generated heat when they were plugged in and working. The LED lights that we’re using now are more energy efficient, more reliable, but they do not produce any heat source.”

Primarily a builder of heating components for cars, JVIS came across the problem for the LED traffic lights and found a new way to apply its technology. Development on the traffic light heaters brought the company’s electronic engineering groups together to design temperature and moisture sensors to control when the heater is active in order to preserve the energy-saving benefits of LEDs.

“As you can imagine, they don’t want to have their cost savings, their energy savings with the new LED lights they just installed taken away by a heater that is wasting energy,” said Bill Parnis, electrical business unit manager for JVIS. “This thing only turns on when there’s snow present in the visor, so it’s only using power when it’s really needed so they still have these huge energy savings with the LEDs.”

JVIS reached out to the county, having established relations with its leadership after meeting officials at the 2022 auto show, and arranged to have heaters tested in Macomb County. Department of roads workers installed the heaters in November with JVIS representatives on-site, placing them in signals at intersections in Harrison and Chesterfield townships.

“We’ve enjoyed the partnership and the collaboration,” Santo said. “I think it’s a great thing that they’re looking at and we’re looking at. We always continue to explore the latest technologies to make our roads as safe as possible for both the resident motorists and the visitors traveling through our county.”

As both parties wait to find out how the heaters perform, JVIS is working on different applications for the heaters. The Michigan Department of Transportation has taken interest in the technology and is working with JVIS on a louvered signal-compatible heater, while other versions of technology are being tested in Illinois and Pennsylvania. If the trials prove effective, JVIS believes the heating technology can be incorporated into new signals and eventually become an industry standard.

“This is a safety issue that we’re trying to resolve, and if the solution can be standardized, then now it can be implemented in a widespread fashion and at a low cost,” Parnis said. “That’s really the goal here. There really has been no solution to date that has worked well or worked well enough. This is the exception. This works very well, and our goal is to get it as a written standard and can be used on a national level.”

Santo says the pilot program is occurring at no cost to the county.