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🚦AI + traffic lights, explained

The Hustle

High school referees vs. nasty parents is a rivalry as old as time, and data shows that refs have had enough. Between 2018 and 2021, ~50k high school referees quit, citing verbal abuse from parents as the top reason why.

In today’s email:

  • Traffic lights: They’re getting smarter.
  • Chart: Jersey ads are coming for American sports.
  • Digits: “Stranger Things,” cremation, and saltier salt.
  • Around the web: The history of world’s fairs, website accessibility tips, an unusual glossary, and more cool internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear Jacob discuss how the business of death is seeing its biggest shift in centuries, plus riffs on the future of traffic, cringeworthy Bezos videos, and more.

The big idea
traffic light

The future of traffic lights

Traffic lights were 1st used in 19th-century England, but the gaslit bulbs were hazardous and prone to explosion.

In 1914, Cleveland installed the 1st electric traffic light. The classic 3-colored lights emerged in Detroit in 1920.

Today’s innovations? Using AI to make our traffic lights smarter.

How it works

LYT (pronounced “light”) is an intelligent connected traffic tech provider. Basically, its software uses data and machine learning to manipulate traffic signals and improve the flow of traffic.

Cities often have traffic sensors, while emergency vehicles, public buses, trains, and even our phones are all equipped with GPS. This forms aggregate data about what traffic looks like at any given moment.

LYT gathers all available data in a central cloud-based system, which “allows us to take that information and turn it into a single story,” CEO and founder Tim Menard explained to The Hustle.

That story is like a real-time, bird’s-eye view of the road

But the AI also learns from past traffic patterns. For example, say there’s a city bus that’s off schedule.

LYT’s AI would take:

  • Historical information (e.g., how long the bus typically waits at a stop
  • Real-time data (i.e., where the bus actually is)

LYT then sets up a “green wave,” in which the bus hits green lights as it needs them.

“Then people who are taking the bus are… less stressed because those buses feel like trains, where they only stop at each bus stop,” Menard said.

A pilot program involving 17 intersections on a San Jose bus route shortened travel times by 20%.

It works on emergency vehicles, too

In Fremont, California, LYT is being used to improve response time.

Principal transportation engineer Eric Hu says that because AI can respond to approaching emergency vehicles at greater distances, it allows “crossing motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians to clear the intersections ahead of time,” improving safety.

Other benefits include:

  • Less pollution from stop-and-go traffic (and increased efficiency in EVs)
  • Less overall congestion and reduced wait times for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians

And less stress — especially if you’re not sitting in your car trapped in traffic.

BTW: For more, check out this video on smart lights in the Netherlands.

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Home improvement retailer Tractor Supply is seeing an increase in sales as Americans move from urban to rural areas, fix up their homes, and adopt pets. #ecommerce-retail

A community of fully electric, net-zero homes in Maryland uses solar power and passive heating/cooling. It’s predicted to save tenants ~$1.5k a year in utilities. #clean-energy

Bot buy: Intrinsic, Alphabet’s robotics arm, acquired Vicarious, a Bay Area AI/robotic intelligence firm specializing in automating warehouse and logistics tasks. #emerging-tech

Pixel time: Google filed a trademark for the Pixel Watch, its smartwatch answer to the Pixel smartphones. Details may be revealed at Google I/O in May. #big-tech

MFM: Six profitable business ideas to start in 2022. #mfm

jersey ad revenue

US sports take a page out of Europe’s business playbook

Jersey ads rake in massive dollars for European soccer teams. Manchester United alone pulls in $185m per year.

Unsurprisingly, American leagues want in on the action.

Per Axios Sports, the era of jersey sponsors is upon us — ¾ of the Big Four sports leagues are either already offering jersey ads or planning to start in the next year, with big-time revenue implications.

  • NBA jerseys have had sponsor patches since 2017, pulling in an estimated $225m this year
  • NHL helmets already feature ads, and the addition of jersey ads next season is projected to generate $160m-$320m
  • MLB jerseys will begin offering patches in 2023, and expect to bring in $240m-$300m annually

The jersey-as-billboard model is already boosting valuations, with the value of MLB teams up 5% YoY.

With that kind of capital at stake, it’s only a matter of time before American teams follow Man U’s lead and offer up the rest of their jersey real estate.

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Free Resource

Why you should drop a business podcast

Over 100m Americans listen to podcasts every week.

Whether on-the-go or working remote, podcasts have become a daily fixture to help us learn, laugh, and pass the time. If you’ve ever thought about reaching your audience on-air…

… you’re only fashionably late. And you’ve delayed long enough that there are now comprehensive resources to help you prep for lasting success. Procrastination as a positive.

How to launch a business podcast, by Trint and HubSpot (PDF):

  • Build your feed
  • Set up your podcast
  • Organize your content
  • Produce your audio
  • Market your podcast
  • Measure success

The 20-page guide is complete with email outreach templates and tips from a ton of hosts who know how to climb the charts.

DIY podcasting →
By the numbers
Stranger Things actors

More like “Expensive Things,” amirite? (Ricardo Ceppi / Stringer)

Digits: ‘Stranger Things,’ cremation, and saltier salt

1) The 4th season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” has a per-episode cost of $30m. Hopefully they can make up for that with a lower-budget, high-performing show like “Is it Cake?,” where people guess if something is cake or not.

2) Six decades ago, fewer than 5% of Americans were cremated. Around 20 years ago, the number was 27%. In 2020, it hit 56%. By 2040, it’s projected to be ~80%. For cemeteries, that means business models and physical properties could look very different.

3) Japanese company Kirin said it developed a pair of high-tech chopsticks that employ electrical stimulation to make food taste 50% saltier. This reminds us of DouxMatok, an Israeli company that raised $30m to develop a sweeter sugar and saltier salt.

4) A new analysis of 22 major US firms found that, over the pandemic, their shareholder wealth grew by $1.5T — 57x the amount of additional worker compensation distributed among their 7m+ employees, which grew less than 2%.

5) By 2025, legal marijuana sales are pegged to hit $45.9B. Edibles are a big part of that growth, though some worry their packaging could confuse children, and candy companies are annoyed about copycats.

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🎳 On this day: In 1947, President Harry S. Truman inaugurated a 2-lane bowling alley in the White House’s West Wing. In 1950, a White House Bowling League formed with teams of groundskeepers, Secret Service agents, and other staff.

🎡 That’s interesting: World’s fairs used to celebrate human achievement and potential. So, why don’t we have them anymore? Smithsonian explains.

🤣 Haha: Words for That is a place where you can suggest and vote on terms for specific scenarios. For example, “dust horizon” for the line of dust you can never quite sweep into the dust pan.

😊 Useful: This site offers simple ways to make your website more accessible to users.

🐥 Aww: And now, ducklings on a slide.

Meme of the day
traffic light meme

Sad, but true. (Source:

How did you like today’s email?
Today’s email was brought to you by Jacob Cohen, Juliet Bennett Rylah, and Rob Litterst.
Editing by: Jennifer “Green means go” Wang.

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