http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,52114,00.html By Ricardo Sametband 2:00 a.m. April 26, 2002 PDT New Yorkers think they have traffic jams, but sorting them out is child's play compared to what Chilean commuters awoke to on Thursday -- a morning of mayhem and chaos. In Santiago de Chile, 800 of the city's 1,800 traffic lights went haywire after thieves stole 15 PCs and 2 servers from the Unidad Operativa de Control de Tránsito (UOCT), the office that manages the traffic flow of the city. Without the computer system, the traffic lights continued working but at their own pace, losing all synchronization between one crossroad and the others. Five million citizens were in fear of crossing the streets, whether on foot or by car. The thieves that broke into the offices of the UOCT, late at night last Wednesday, seem to have had a good knowledge of the place. They entered the building through the kitchen in the backyard, deactivated the alarm system and disconnected security cameras. But while stealing the goods, valued at US$90,000, they took their time. According to police reports, these peculiar robbers smoked some cigarettes, ate a snack, and drank a few cups of joe, taking it easy before leaving the scene of the crime. The motives behind the theft remain unknown. It was a thorough job: After they loaded the computers into a van, the alarm was also taken. The only equipment they left in the UOCT were the live cameras that show the way the traffic moves - or, rather, does not move. Although police are re-routing vehicles around the city, traffic is far from becoming organized. Long queues of cars were observed all over Santiago, especially in the wealthy neighborhoods of the southern and western parts of the city, where most of the derelict traffic lights are installed. Patricio Tambolini, subsecretary of transportation, told the local media that drivers should not expect a normal green light until Monday, when things may be straightened out. About half of the 800 derelict traffic lights were operational by Thursday evening, thanks to a backup version of the software that controls the lights, but no word on when the job will be completed. Luckily, this will occur during the weekend, so Santiago should not expect even more trouble as the traffic lights synchronization software is tested. "We thought we had deployed all normal security measures," Tambolini said. "You never know if you've covered all security holes until this kind of thing happens." He also pleaded to the almost 1 million befuddled drivers for some patience and understanding. In an effort to lower the number of circulating cars and calm down bewildered drivers, the authorities are urging citizens to take public transportation and the subway, even when buses now take three times as long to complete their journey. Local newspaper La Tercera reported that Javier Etcheberry, minister of transport and telecommunications, announced that even though installing a back-up traffic control system would be expensive, the government is giving the proposal some serious thought. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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