Build smart cars, not wider highways | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Build smart cars, not wider highways

Posted By on Sat, Feb 18, 2017 at 7:18 AM

COMPUTER AIDED: Vehicle spacing can be smaller when computers do the driving. That could increase road capacity. - IEEE SPECTRUM
  • IEEE Spectrum
  • COMPUTER AIDED: Vehicle spacing can be smaller when computers do the driving. That could increase road capacity.

The galloping advance of technology contributes another point to ponder in the battle against the Arkansas Freeway Department's determination to build ever wider freeways, regardless of the damage they add to already concrete-gulched cities like Little Rock. See the jillion-dollar 30 Crossing project.

In a few words: Computer-controlled cars. Or driverless cars. Or semi-autonomous cars.

Check this article about how the rise in such vehicles (a development occurring faster than conventional thinkers might realize) will hugely increase capacity of existing highways.

On a highway filled to capacity by human drivers (which is about 2,200 vehicles per hour per lane), about five percent of the available road space is taken up by cars. Five percent. This is because humans are so bad at driving that we need lanes that are twice the size of our cars, and at highway speeds, we have to keep between 40 and 50 meters away from the car in front of us.

Researchers at Colombia University took a look at what would happen if we started relying on autonomous or semi-autonomous cars equipped with sensors and/or intervehicular communications systems, and the increase in efficiency is fairly incredible, simply due to the fact that cars can safely travel closer together.

It gets technical, but this study conclusion is fun to think about — even though a full conversion to robot cars won't be an immediate thing:

.... if we all just give up driving on highways and let robots take over for us, we could effectively end highway congestion as we know it by boosting the capacity of our existing roads by a staggering 273%.
The article notes that more efficient highways would be but one benefit. Roads would be safer, an enormous benefit in many ways. And "drivers" would have hands-free time to be "productive" during commutes. Work, play music, do Snapchat.

But this is Arkansas. No dreaming allowed. Pour the concrete!

Thanks Scott for this food for thought on a slow Saturday.

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