New device will clear traffic for first responders

The electronic box will turn lights green for approaching emergency vehicles, and even create an "ambulance corridor" to an area hospital


By Bob Caylor
The News-Sentinel

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The boldly named “Eliminator” makes a big promise for an electronic box about the size of a package of index cards. This device, made by a small Fort Wayne company, is supposed to unravel the traffic tangles that can ensnare emergency vehicles at stoplights.

Trials of the first-generation Eliminator in St. Louis and Indianapolis have been successful enough that the company is working with Indianapolis to use the second generation of the device to create what it calls an “ambulance corridor” near Riley Children's Hospital, said Dave Gross, president and chief executive officer of Collision Control Communications Inc.

The Eliminator works like this: Transmitters and receivers in traffic signals and in emergency vehicles use frequency-hopping FM radio signals so that receivers in traffic lights and ambulances can track their locations relative to one another.

As an ambulance on an critical run approaches a traffic signal, the system is designed to turn the traffic light green for the approaching ambulance but red in all other directions. That not only clears the path for the ambulance, but also keeps other vehicles headed in the same direction on the same street moving along, so that an ambulance driver doesn't need to inch around stopped or slowed vehicles in his or her path.

Gross said he started working on the Eliminator in 1997, after he saw an ambulance that couldn't get through a crowded intersection near Glenbrook Square. His role in developing the devices was mainly perfecting the equations the units use to calculate the direction of approach of emergency vehicles to traffic signals.

He has a boost from state government now, too. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has approved Collision Control as a qualified Indiana business under the venture capital investment tax credit program, said IEDC spokeswoman Katelyn Hancock. Even small investors -- he's selling stock for $20 a share -- should be able to qualify for a 20 percent tax credit on their investments in Collision Control.

In the course of nurturing this idea, he's drawn on engineering, legal, software and computer-science expertise in northeast Indiana. In turn, he's cut in those who helped develop the Eliminator for shares of its profits, provided it ever makes a profit.

“I wanted to deal with people who were close by so that I knew I could count on them. It saved me probably three-quarters of a million dollars in (research and development) costs,” Gross said.

Gross, better known around Fort Wayne as “Dr. Dave” on radio station WLDE, 101.7-FM, now fills in on some shifts on Fun 101.7, but he's mainly devoted to making the Eliminator a success.

To measure that success, he has a simple yardstick: “When I actually accomplish selling it to a major city.”

He has a fresh hope for that win, nearly halfway around the world. He's negotiating with officials in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Why should those negotiations be promising? A police force in which officers pilot Bentley, Ferrari and Lamborghini patrol cars has a proven willingness to spend money on equipment.

Gross said Collision Control plans to manufacture the “Eliminator” at Bowmar in Fort Wayne.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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