In April 2013, Mats Järlström’s wife drove her Volkswagen through the intersection of Allen Boulevard and Lombard Avenue in Beaverton, Oregon. She later received a ticket based on the red-light camera there. That ticket sparked her husband’s fascination with traffic-light timing.
Mats is a Swedish-born electronics engineer. He has the equivalent of an American Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering. After serving as an airplane-camera mechanic in the Swedish Air Force, he worked for Luxor Electronics, and eventually immigrated to the United States in 1992, settling in Oregon. In recent years, he’s been self-employed, testing audio products as well as repairing, upgrading and calibrating test instruments.
He began writing and speaking publicly about how red light cameras misuse the standard mathematical formula for timing traffic lights, leading to unsafe driving conditions and unfair citations when drivers slow down to turn. People wanted to hear Mats’s ideas—local news covered his story and he presented his research at a national conference of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
But Oregon’s engineer-licensing board had heard enough.
After a two-year investigation, the board fined Mats $500 for the unlicensed practice of engineering. If Mats continued to “critique” traffic lights, he could face thousands of dollars in fines and up to one year in jail for the unlicensed practice of engineering.