Frabjous Times

Traffic and automatic cars

I saw a traffic accident today, a pickup truck rear-ending a passenger car. It was all well under the speed that a 5mph bumper should be able to absorb, and at first I just thought the truck had hit some kind of rut in the road right before the stop light, and braked suddenly. But then the driver of the truck hopped out of his vehicle, said a word or two to the other, and then they both turned off onto a side street. One thing I don't like about living here in New Jersey is the amount of congestion on the roads and the number of traffic lights needed to maintain some kind of order over it all. I think back about the enormous expanse of open space I saw once on a trip to Denver, and whether that might be more like what suited me.

It seems like in this case that the system didn't really work. Still, I can't see how automatically self-driving cars could work well in this kind of place, especially with that awkward period of coexistence between automatic and manually driven vehicles sharing the roads initially. It's a lot of variables for even a very sophisticated computer to process. Instead, maybe if they do have practical technology of this sort, it might start out on the margins, places where they could operate mostly isolated from other drivers, and gradually penetrate in to the more densely populated areas like this one.

Originally published: 16-05-2003 22:52:42