What would a world without traffic lights look like? The short answer, in my view, is "better." As I have told anyone who will listen (OK, mainly Nathan) many times, solving this problem is one of the key obstacles toward structuring my own view of a perfect world. As it turns out I am not alone, and this is actually an achievable goal.
See this article from 2006:
European traffic planners are dreaming of streets free of rules and directives. They want drivers and pedestrians to interact in a free and humane way, as brethren — by means of friendly gestures, nods of thehead and eye contact, without the harassment of prohibitions, restrictions and warning signs….
"Only two out of our original 18 traffic light crossings are left, and we’ve converted them to roundabouts." Now traffic is regulated by only two rules in Drachten: "Yield to the right" and "Get in someone’s way and you’ll be towed." Strange as it may seem, the number of accidents has declined dramatically.
And here for videos of this working in various Asian cities.
A (more) perfect world is achievable.
[Via Mike Munger and Russ Roberts]