Hack the Traffic Lights
Traffic lights are extremely susceptible to being hacked in fiction. This can be done to show off a hacker's (or AI's) power, or for the more pragmatic reason of letting the hacker and his buddies make their escape via car while their pursuers are stuck in the resulting traffic jams. Bonus points if all the lights glow green (or any given colour), as opposed to, you know, the green ones.
A more dangerous variant is hacking the signals that coordinate train movements, or the warning lights where train tracks and roads intersect.
Anime and Manga
- Fujimaru of Bloody Monday did this from his laptop to stop the terrorists from escaping with his kidnapped sister (Chapter 12).
- Done at the start of the You're Under Arrest! movie as part of a terrorist plot created by an ex-Tokyo Metropolitan Police officer in order to prove his work on how to cause a terror attack on a country with first world standards.
- The technopath Satsuki Yatoji from X1999 is introduced hacking a street light from her cellphone while riding a bicycle.
- Ghost in the Shell: Arise: "Ghost Whispers", the hacking of traffic system electronics including the lights are done by rogue JGSDF Ranger soldiers in order to prove that they are serious when they want their imprisoned CO freed of false charges.
- In one Underdog comic, Riff Raff takes over the city's traffic control centre and uses the traffic lights to create havoc so his gang can commit crimes. In attempting to fix the problem, Underdog accidentally ends up sending every car on a one way trip out of town.
Live Action Television
- In the furry sci-fi novel A Fox Tail Vulpie does this with his phone for fun the day before unleashing a viral AI on the world.
- William Marshall's Yellowthread Street novel Roadshow is another pre-internet example, in which a gang of criminals deliberately cause gridlock in Hong Kong by a mixture of physical sabotage of traffic lights and computer sabotage.
- Played with in Masked Dog by Raymond Obstfeld. The assassin doesn't hack into the traffic lights, but uses his super skills to memorize their patterns, then manipulate his target into position by acting as a road rage hoodlum.
- Done near the end of "Marshall Pucci" in the 2010 version of Human Target.
- In the Agents Of Shield episode "Girl in the Flower Dress", Miles does this to get away from Coulson. It works, temporarily.
- In an MacGyver episode, Mac "hacks" the stoplights in a town in Europe to help him make his getaway, by putting fragments of a credit card in a timing gear.
- Lie to Me: the episode "Saved" has an interesting variation of this trope. Cal Lightman finds that a particularly heroic paramedic saves so many lives because she knows where the accidents will be. That's because her brother hacks into traffic lights and purposely causes deadly accidents.
- In The Blacklist, the kid pretending to be the feared hacker Ivan hacks the streetlamps in his hometown as part of an attempt to impress a girl.
- One episode of Intelligence has Gabriel use his chip to change the traffic lights to allow him and Riley to catch up to a suspect.
- Spooks. In the episode "Outsiders" the Villain of the Week has invented an algorithm that enables him to hack into any computer system, and one point changing traffic lights to cause a traffic accident among those investigating him.
- Occurs in at least one episode of Alias. Marshall is nearly foiled by the fact that the website is in German, but Jack is there to lean over his shoulder and tell him which button means "red."
- The Flash (2014): In "The Sound and the Fury", Cisco does to slow down the Royal Flush Gang by turning the lights red during their getaway.
- The pilot episode of Probe has a somewhat sentient supercomputer do this. It not only changes lights from red to green and vice versa, it flashes one of the lights to communicate with the protagonist in Morse Code.
- One Victim of the Week on NCIS does this from the chamber where he's imprisoned, using the traffic lights to send an S.O.S. He dies before he's found, though.
- Champions supplement C.L.O.W.N.. When the founding members of C.L.O.W.N. were just teenagers, one of their "pranks" was to cause all of the stoplights in town to turn green at the same time. The writer of the supplement apparently didn't realize that this would cause cars to crash into each other in the intersections, leading to mass injury and death. This is particularly odd given that the group is conscientious about not causing serious damage or injury with their pranks, to the point of expelling one of the founding members for violating that standard.
- The d20 Modern supplement "Urban Arcana" includes a spell which changes red lights to green in the path of the player's vehicle.
- Watch_Dogs: Aiden Pearce is able to do this, as seen in the page image. It's used to cause pileups to help escape from pursuers - although it does also get used against him later on in the game to block him.
- Mega Man Battle Network: in Colorman.EXE's scenario, he hacks into the traffic lights and causing them to flash many colors, confusing the traffic.
- Super Solvers: Midnight Rescue features a story about Morty Maxwell using his magic powers to mess around with the traffic lights so they were all the wrong colors and sprouted an umbrella, too.
- Grand Theft Auto V: Part of the "subtle" option for the Union Depository heist involves your hacker manipulating Los Santos's traffic light grid to keep Merryweather away from Michael and Trevor. Notably, you can't just set the lights to whatever you want; you can only toggle which street has the green/red light at each intersection.
- In Spiderman The Animated Series, the Hobgoblin gains access to the Kingpin's computer console, and raves about the information he'll be able to control. The first thing he does is create traffic chaos.
- In Count Duckula, there was one episode with an intelligent and slightly evil computer, who invites Duckula to play a game about traffic lights. It turns out it controls real traffic lights.
- In the The Penguins of Madagascar episode, "Go Fish", Kowalski hacks the city's traffic lights in order to stop a fish delivery truck so that the other penguins can steal fish from it. Unfortunately, he accidentally licks one of the wires when he thinks about fish, causing the light to turn green and the fish truck to get away.
- Teen Titans Go!, "Hey, Pizza!": Beast Boy and Cyborg do this on the tower mainframe in one of their attempts to slow down the pizza delivery man in hopes of getting free pizza. It doesn't work.
- or it does work, but they get so worked up that the pizza guy actually makes it to the tower that they forget it's free if he's delayed.
- Traffic lights are occasionally hooked up to the internet as a few articles show. Some cities lights can sort of be hacked via other means besides the internet. For example a lot of cities have set it up so that emergency vehicles broadcast a signal which turns the light red and people other than emergency workers have done so.