Small Trains January 2018
Talking to a friend of mine who works in law enforcement, I asked him a question, “With all the craziness on the freeways, do you think we are going to have to go to autonomous vehicles to correct this?”
He said, “Yes, I don’t see any other way.“
A small percentage of people have decided to totally ignore the law. You see them driving between 90 and 110 mph even in heavy traffic. Several times people have passed me on the shoulder doing those speeds. At the other end of the spectrum, we now have legally-stoned people illegally driving 50 miles an hour. So those two vehicles have a closing speed of 40 to 60 miles per hour. Even when going the same direction they could have a disastrous accident.
Another factor is the amount of space on the freeways that is unoccupied by vehicles. During rush hour, this can be as much as 50 percent despite the apparent crowding. The cost to build new freeways and the impact on the homes and businesses that are in the way and have to be declared condemned, is enormous. If you link the cars together electronically so that there is very little space between them two things happen. You don’t have to regulate their speed, and you can put off building new freeways for many, many years.
There will still be challenges. The front car cuts the wind resistance for the others in that string and the 2nd through 20th cars’ fuel consumption drops substantially. The front car pays the higher cost for fuel. The largest problem is the cost of the entire system. You can’t have a 1953 Chevy stock pickup truck on the same roads. The purpose is to equalize performance so that maximum efficiency can be attained. So virtually every vehicle, whether a new Tesla or a 30 year old Toyota Corolla, would have to be converted to the new system simultaneously.
These changes would require heavy-handed government control. The custom cars would be replaced and subsidized with People’s Cars. The era of personality expressed through vehicle choice would become a thing of the past. Yes kids, that is a socialist approach to transportation and represents a tremendous yielding of freedom. Do you remember what the term Nazi meant? National Socialist German Workers Party. And they produced a vehicle – The People’s Car – or as it came to be called the Volkswagen.
OR – We could just encourage correcting the bad behavior through good example and expensive punishment of those on the road who have lost respect for every one else on our highways. I am a Californian, and I cannot imagine losing my choice of vehicles, deciding when to drive, and choosing what to pay for transportation. When a society is made up of people who put themselves first without regard to the whole, the rules will change to dampen those bad behaviors. Society can do no other. I vote for obedience to the rules of the road and a caring spirit for others that transcends my need to rush to the next occasion.