Isqua Istari

The Wise Wizards

Driving Improvements, Nagoya Podcast

Posted in Articles,Music,Podcasts,PSCast:S0 by Ziggy Wednesday May 28, 2014 at 06:32

So, this is a topic that’s been on my mind for a while. Like, probably since I was about five years old. The way our roads are regulated is silly and wasteful. Fortunately, you’ve got me to point out how we can improve things… In a rambling sort of way. Download here: Driving Improvements or listen below.

In case there’s no time, let me sum up:

  1. Improve how we think about transport. Less focus on safety, more focus on efficiency.
  2. Improve traffic lights. Give them more sensors, allow them to telegraph their internal state (about to change green, as well as about to change red), and improve the incentives for keeping the programming updated.
  3. Improve traffic laws to penalize causing delays instead of penalizing “unsafe” behavior such as speeding. Stop pulling people over for superficial infractions (as this only causes delays). Train people to drive in packs.
  4. Improve driver skill by giving special privileges and status to drivers who exhibit fast and efficient driving (instead of penalizing them, as is the current practice), and encourage others to follow their example.

Full transcript below:

[Marginally Musical Intro]

Understandably, while driving, one things about driving. One of the things I think about while driving is now not to crash into other vehicles! … Which seems like a useful skill, and a useful practice. So, I’ve gotten pretty good at not crashing into other vehicles. I’ve only done it once… so far. I’ve found that the trick is to pay close attention to what the car in front of you is doing. You will not crash into anything as long as you stay in your lane, and don’t crash into the car in front of you! This has held true… well, maybe not the complete course, but nearly the complete course of my driving experience because:

  1. Roads are heavily trafficked, and therefore they are kept clear. This means that you’re not going to run into some sort of random tree or anything like that. Very VERY rarely will that be the case. Almost ALWAYS someone will have gotten there before you.
  2. Converting a two-dimensional problem of driving a car into a one-dimensional problem of driving a car in a lane is very useful, conceptually and cognatively. It makes it much easier to process, because then all you have to do is deal with the one-dimensional of what’s in front of me, and what’s behind me. And since you can’t see what’s behind you, and since you’re moving away from what’s behind you, it’s very unlikely the thing behind you will crash into you.

I would feel confident in saying “All driving laws exonerate anyone from being crashed into from behind.” because that’s not your responsibility. All your responsibility is in front of you, and if you’re going in a line along the road (and of course you have to stay in your lane, that’s just part of steering. But most people can do a really good job of just steering the car so that it stays in the lane) at that point all you have to do is manage your speed. And managing your speed is entirely involved in not crashing into anything, which means not crashing into the things in front of you, which means not crashing into the car in front of you. So! With all that in mind, here’s a few things that I’ve, uh, “discovered.”

Basically: Don’t look away from the road unless you’re at a complete stop. If you’re at a complete stop, then you can look away and do whatever you want; You’re not going to crash into anything. You’re stopped. If someone crashes into you while you’re at a complete stop, it’s not your fault [NOTE: Except where you pull out into traffic. The “T-bone” collision is a classic example of a possible at-fault on the part of a driver at a complete stop. But intersections are a location where the 1D rule does not apply, which is the general topic here]. It almost never happens. It DOES happen, and I’m sure the news makes a big deal about it when it happens, but for all practical purposes, you’ll be fine.

As my [former] roommate David Moore said, “Very few accidents are caused by NOT pulling out into traffic.” And it’s the idea that you can stay stopped at a stoplight or a stop sign as long as you want. You might slow traffic up, you might cause a jam, which is, really, the thing you want to avoid, as a first principle.

So, there’s a really strong temptation to justify to yourself “Okay, I am accelerating. The people in front of me are accelerating! So, I can look away from the road, they’re going to keep accelerating, and so I’ll have plenty of space in front of me.” WRONG! They can stop accelerating at any time, and if you keep accelerating, while they stop accelerating and start slowing down you’ll crash into them. Then there’s also the temptation to be like “Well, we’re on the straight and level. We’re going in a straight line,” or whatever it is, “we’re” you know, “moving along, the car in front of me is moving forward. They are going to keep moving forward! I can look away!” WRONG! If the car in front of you starts to stop, it’s as if you’re accelerating toward them, and you will crash into them. You have to be paying attention. There’s also the strong temptation to be like, “Ahh… We’re slowing down to… stop at a light. I can look away! I know the car in front of me is going to stop. I’ll just time my, you know, get my acceleration going to where I’ll stop before [where] they’re going to stop, and then we’ll be fine!” WRONG! The car in front of you may slow down much more quickly than you’re anticipating. Unless you’re at a complete stop, it is possible to crash into the car in front of you, unless you are paying attention.

And I’ve fallen into this trap, the one time I crashed was when I was accelerating from a stop in stop-and-go traffic. I looked away because I was interested in something on the side of the road, and when I looked back the car in front of me had completely stopped… and I was still accelerating.

So! That ended poorly.

Nothing was seriously damaged. I dented their bumper, but no one was hurt. But! It served as an excellent example to me (and I hope to you) to always pay attention when you’re driving. Your ONLY JOB is to keep the car from crashing into something in front of you, and if you can do that, you’re fine. And that’s why I can do this podcast, because all I’m doing, my entire visual processing is devoted to analyzing the car in front of me. It’s not hard, but you do have to be paying attention; You do have to be looking. You can’t see the car in front of you unless you’re looking in that general direction.

But! Also! [(do you like that transition? I seem to use it a lot!)] There are a great number of things that are interesting about driving, one of which is that we can improve the efficiency of the roadways a great deal… And here’s what I mean!

People talk about “don’t time lights” and timing a light is when you’re driving in such a way that you will hit the light when it turns green. As opposed to driving up to the light and then stopping and waiting for it to turn green. And this is nonsense of course! You SHOULD time lights! It is in your best interests and in the best interests of everyone around you. And here’s why.

People obey traffic lights. Because if they don’t, they will get injured; They will be in a collision. And, uh, but if you obey the traffic light by not entering the intersection until the light is green (which is how (as far as I’m aware) ALL traffic lights are designed to operate) then you will be fine, no matter what speed you enter the intersection. And… well, I won’t say the primary purpose… A primary purpose of driving is to not crash into the car in front of you. This can be easily accomplished by never going anywhere! So it can’t be the primary purpose.

The primary purpose of driving a vehicle, as with any form of transportation, is to get to where you’re going as quickly as possible.

And this should be in mind at all times! The point is to get where you’re going as quickly as possible. It’s not to get there safely, because you could do that walking much more safely than you could driving a car. You could do that, you know, walking behind a car, or between cars. You could have people driving cars on either side of you, and then get there, I mean, it’s just ridiculous.

Getting there safely is not the point. Getting there as quickly as possible is the point.

And the laws and standards of transport in general are designed in such a way that causing a collision will cause you a great delay. This is why they are designed that way. Because it penalizes your primary purpose, which is to get where you’re going as quickly as possible. So that’s the reason (in part) that you have to stay at the side of the road until a police officer gets there, and you have to exchange information, and cars aren’t designed to endure demolition-derby style amounts of damage, because if they were then people wouldn’t have to stop when they collided, and culture has decided that it’s important that you stop. They penalize you for collisions.

So, you don’t have to worry about “oh I want to get there safely without causing a collision”, no no no. You want to get there as quickly as possible, and just keep in mind that if you collide with anything, that will greatly delay your arrival at your destination.

So! Trying to get there as quickly as possible!

One of the ways you can do this is by accelerating as quickly as possible. But this takes a lot of fuel and, um, generally you’re limited by the person in front of you since your car can’t pass through solid objects, being made of matter… I hope? (If you’re listening to this podcast and your car is not made of matter and IS able to pass through solid objects… PLEASE contact me… I would love to talk to you.)

The other thing is that if you are driving, you can decelerate… Not as slowly as possible because that might cause you to crash into a vehicle in front of you which will in turn cause a delay… But decelerate as infrequently as possible, and this is what I mean. If you have an opportunity to decelerate now in order to not decelerate later this is to your advantage because it will allow you to reach your destination sooner. And this has to do with, aah, I don’t know, really, how to describe it! I’m an engineer! I have a degree in engineering! I have taken multiple advanced mathematical courses… but I’m not very good at math and it doesn’t really come very naturally to me, so I’ll try to explain this as… not confusingly as possible, but…

If you are stopped at a stop light it takes a certain amount of time to get up to speed. If you can, instead, slow down to, say, half the speed limit, when you get to the light you’re going at half the speed limit! And if the light turns green when you get there suddenly you’re going half the speed limit instead of zero the speed limit! So, it’s clearly to your advantage to not be stopped when the light turns green. And in fact it’s greatly to your advantage to be going the speed limit when the light turns green.

If your car could, in theory, go an infinite speed, uh, you would not be able to reach your destination in zero amount of time because you’d have to stop at all the stop-lights. And, if your car accelerated slowly, you could accelerate to an infinite speed but you could accelerate only at a certain rate, then it would STILL be in your best interests to not drive at the maximum speed all the time, because you would hit the lights and stop…

Presumably.

And please, DO follow traffic laws. They are designed for a reason. They’re around… I mean sometimes they’re annoying, but they’re there for a reason. That reason being to not cause accidents, which cause delays, and you know, which in turn also delay other people. So, the point of transit infrastructure is to get EVERYONE to their destination as quickly as possible. If it doesn’t do this perfectly, well, we’ll get to that.

But! So! You want to not stop at lights, you want to stop BEFORE the light. Now this is counterbalanced by the fact that you don’t want to take up space on the road because this prevents other cars from getting onto the road which in turn delays their arrival at their destination… which is bad, because the whole point of the road is to get everyone to their destination as fast as possible. So if you take up too much space, say, stopping right after the light before, so that no one else can get on to the stretch of road leading up to this light so, like, you can use it as a drag strip to accelerate to the light… this may not be ideal.

I say MAY not, because there are situations in which it is ideal! Say, for example, if there’s no one else on the road, uh, you might want to do this. Now, of course, you’ll want to gauge this distance based on the performance capability of your vehichle, and your ability to perceive the light that is about to change, and often times you won’t be able to do this first off, like if you’re driving in an unfamiliar area. But if you’re familiar with the area, like when you’re commuting, then you will probably get a pretty good sense of when lights turn and how far back you should stop so that you can accelerate properly to take advantage of this, uuh, this… this property of physical matter that it takes time to accelerate and therefore must be managed in order to get it where it needs to go… as quickly as possible!

If it sounds like my car is being hailed by bullets, [allow me to inform you that] it is in fact only being hailed by giant droplets of water coming off of the highway that I am driving next-to/under. Do not concern yourself, please!

So, this whole, uh, thing is, uh, leading up to, uh, my idea about improving the efficiency of the transit infrastructure. And one of the ways you can do this, as a group, is to “time” lights. To not drive up to a light and stop, but to stop before the light, and accelerate in anticipation of its changing. This will, I guarantee, improve the efficiency of the roads.

Now, it takes some foresight, and it takes some judgement, and if you start accelerating too soon you end up having to slam on the breaks because the light hasn’t changed yet, and if you end up accelerating too late then you’ve used up space on the road (not time, but space) which could have been better used by other people. But on the whole, I think it would be an improvement.

So, stop before you get to the light, if it’s possible, and time it.

The other thing we could do is make the lights more intelligent. By which I mean, have the lights have sensors far in advance of the stopping line so that they can tell when cars are approaching and change the light as they arrive. And this would require a certain amount of trust on the part of drivers, a certain amount of foresight on the part of traffic light designers and the engineers who program them, and, um, a certain amount of expense on the part of the cities, or counties, or prefectures, or whoever maintains the roads. And honestly, I don’t know who pays for this, in the end, you pay for it, because you are paying taxes and you’re driving on the road. So some how or another you’re going to end up paying for it. But I think it would be to our advantage to implement something like this where traffic lights anticipate the arrival of vehicles, and change in anticipation of them timing the light, and traveling at a reasonable speed whence [?] they arrive there.

Another thing we could do is change the way traffic lights telegraph their changing. This would require a GREAT amount of trust on the part of the people designing these systems because it would involve letting the light tell you when it is about to turn green. And then, you might say, “Oh! Well then people will drive in before it turns green!” And, well, that is a risk that, uh, you’re going to have to endure. But! It will improve the efficiency of the roads, which is the point of the roads! It’s not to be safe, it’s to get there as fast as possible.

So, I think this would be a good improvement and we should design lights to, maybe, change yellow from red while they are going to green (as well as change yellow from green, while they are going to red). Aah, and then you would have to train people. Or maybe have some other color, where it’s orange when it’s about to turn green or something like this. But you’d have to train people to not drive into the intersection while the light was in this transition color. It’s just telling you when it’s about to change. And maybe the light flashes red when it’s about to change green. Uh, something of this nature, but allowing the light to communicate to the drivers it’s internal state, and when it’s going to change, so that then the drivers can make intelligent decisions about their behavior and their acceleration deceleration and velocity.

If we’re going to spend more effort on this, uh, more time and effort, we could change the structure of the way that lights are programmed. And this is, I think, you know, even if we’re… and maybe this isn’t more money, but it would be a different approach. And I think there’s really a huge amount of advantage to be gained here by adding some incentive for traffic light programmers, the people who design and time traffic lights, for adding some incentive for them to update the programming of the lights to not cause delays.

And so, currently, and I would presume… And, again, I don’t really know much about this professionally. I’m just basing this on speculation and what seems reasonable which, uh, I would hope holds true? If the universe is a reasonable place? Which I think it is! The structure, currently, (I speculate) of incentives for traffic light designers is to not cause accidents, to “be safe”. This is, I am almost certain, in the forefront of their mind, because it is a bureaucratic system (no doubt) and it is designed by people and incentivized by people who want to not cause accidents. If a traffic light causes an accident, it is a “failure”, and the people who have programmed it are “failures” and maybe they get fired, maybe they don’t get promoted. There’s probably a whole ethics committee on “the ethics of traffic lights” and how they need to be designed to keep people safe!

And this is nonsense!

They SHOULD keep people safe, but their primary purpose is to get people to their destination as quickly as possible. So, I think we should have incentives, in some way, not necessarily to keep people safe, although that is a good thing, but to get people to their destination as quickly as possible… Keeping in mind that accidents DO cause delays, and letting that effect sort itself out. There must be some reasonable level of accidents permissible in exchange for a certain amount of improved efficiency in the lights.

So, maybe, this means that some traffic lights in the middle of a rural area, with nothing really around, um, just flash yellow! In the sense that, “Hey, look around you. If you don’t see cars coming, um, just go through at full speed. You don’t have to stop.” Basically an uncontrolled intersection. One that’s not a stop sign, but is just a warning  ”Hey, there’s, you know, crossing, but, uh, be aware, and, uh, don’t crash into people.” And it could be like this both ways! Both could have flashing yellow lights! It will cause certain number of accidents, I am sure. But, you have to weigh that against the cost of delay.

The other thing you can do is pay traffic engineers per car that goes through the intersection. You could pay the last person who programmed the light, by the number of cars that goes through the intersection. So if there is an improvement… or maybe you could pay them by the improvement that they made over the last… programmed, you know, guy who did it. So, have some sort of statistics on the number of cars that pass through the intersection, and you can do this with the in-street sensors, and sure people might game it, but you know, if you do enough of these then it’s going to be too much trouble… The incentives are low enough that it’s not going to be worth gaming it… hopefully. And then this will give a reason for traffic engineers to re-visit intersections, re-program them to, uh, improve efficiency, and allow people to go through without being hindered.

I see SO MANY traffic lights that change for no reason (are just on pure timers) that change, delay people, ahh, there’s no one going through the opposite way, there’s no reason for them to be stopping people! They should have sensors, they should have advance sensors, and there should be incentives for the people programming them to program them in an efficient manner. Not necessarily the most safe manner, but the most efficient manner. Again, transport infrastructure: Primary purpose is to get you where you’re going as quickly as possible.

This also applies to speed limits, and while I do understand that speed limits are important, say, for a turn, when there is rain, or sleet, or uh, you know, some sort of problem with the road, or there’s gravel, or there may be obstacles in the road, maybe there’s a landslide area where rocks fall down, or maybe there’s an uncontrolled intersection (although, again, uncontrolled intersections are not necessarily an excuse to put up traffic limiting signs but just, you know, you have to be aware and balance them against the cost).

So, again, speed limits. I understand there are reasons for them and good reasons for them, and I respect them, and I drive by the speed limits… but, I would greatly appreciate if the people who are designing the roads and putting up these speed limits would abandon this faulty idea that roads are designed to be safe, and accept that roads are designed to get you where you’re going as quickly as possible, and not put up speed limit signs on areas where there is, for example, a straight-away! Or, where the lights can be programmed to have a long delay in the red to yellow transition [I meant to say the other way around, hopefully you know what I meant] to give you plenty of time to stop. And, in this case, maybe you don’t have speed limits at all! Or maybe they are much higher than they currently are. But currently, speed limits are entirely too low. And this applies in Japan, this applies in the United States.

Now you could say “Oh, but what if children run out into the street?” Well… the children should not be running out into the street. DON’T DO THAT. It is their parents responsibility to keep them safe. You wouldn’t have parents, you know, blocking up all… well… and they do this too. There’s so much focus on safety. It’s absurd.

But, anyway!

Parents should be responsible for their children, the children should not be playing in the street. And if they do, they should be aware of their surroundings. I think it should be the pedestrian’s responsibility to not be injured by vehicles, uh, in the street. You know, if someone drives on the sidewalk that’s a different matter. But if you are in the street, I think it should be the pedestrian’s responsibility to not be injured by vehicles, not the driver’s responsibility, because if you make it the driver’s responsibility, then you can have people just standing in the middle of the street as long as they want. Uh, it gives incentives for people to hold up traffic, as opposed to giving them incentives to move traffic along as quickly as possible, which is the whole point of a transport infrastructure!

So! I think pedestrians should be allowed to be run over in the streets. I know that sounds crazy, but just think about it for a minute and I think it will make sense. And you should have a way for people to drive over the speed limit as long as they don’t hurt anyone.

Basically what I’m saying is I think it would be better to have higher speed limits, less restrictive traffic laws, traffic lights that don’t keep you necessarily as safe as long as they increase greatly the efficiency of the network, and… uh… that kind of thing.

So then, once we’ve moved beyond improving efficiency of traffic lights and improving speed limits, uh, you could of course improve the quality of the roads but everyone is always talking about that, and there’s great economic trade-offs on both sides and I’m sure the people who are designing the roads are doing a fine job and that we should just let them off the “road quality” thing, it’s… I’m sure they are doing as good a job as they can with the road quality and, uh, and that’s just fine.

What I would like to see is some method of instructing people on how to drive on highways in a[n] efficient manner. So this is what I mean. If you have a highway, some cars will drive faster than others, and this is fine. It’s important to be able to drive quickly because, again, driving quickly is the whole point of a transport infrastructure… a road is designed to allow you to drive quickly, not safely, I mean, safely is good, but quickly is the point. So if you’re on the road, aah, you’re going to want to drive quickly.

But, this leads to (without some sort of direction) this leads to an interesting problem where, uh, you have people who are driving slowly, and behind them accumulate people who could drive more quickly, and behind them accumulate even more people who could drive even more quickly, and so you get this kind of inverted group, ahh, which then ends up turning over, ends up kind of reversing itself during a passing area or some place where cars can pass each other. And so then the people who are driving almost as slowly as the people who are driving slowly end up passing the people who are driving the slowest, and then the people who are driving even more quickly try to pass the people who are driving marginally slowly and so forth, until the people who are driving the quickest finally pass the people who are driving almost as quickly, uh, but it’s, it’s just a mess.

So this is what I think we should do about this. Instead of having people drive in this way, we should train people who can and will drive quickly, to drive at the front of a pack. And this goes back to managing it as a one-dimensional problem. Driving should not be a two dimensional problem. It’s difficult to think in two dimensions, and until we have cars that can drive themselves (which I am greatly looking forward to, and to which all these ideas apply) we will have to have people driving cars and people should be allowed to think in one dimension.

But! If the people who are driving quickly can slow up so that the people behind them are not too far behind them then they will form a pack that is ordered in a reasonable way, which is to say you will form a pack with people who are driving, or who want to drive, the fastest in the front, and the slowest in the back. And why would you want to do this?

Well, I’ll tell you why.

Because then you will get packs that are moving at different speeds. Instead of having individual cars that are trying to move quickly or slowly you will have whole groups of cars which naturally will form that are moving quickly or slowly. So then you’ll have a whole pod of cars driving at a high speed (like a group of motorcycles), and a whole pod of vehicles that are moving slowly like a… caravan of… what are they? “Semi trucks”? I, don’t know why they’re called “semi trucks”. Is that like a semi-conductor? They’re not a semiconductor. They’re not “semi-” anything! They’re a whole truck! With a whole… maybe it’s a semi truck because it’s got a front and a back… so there’s only a semi… part of a truck there…

Anyway!

You’ll have groups of semi-trucks moving slowly… although, again, semi-trucks should be allowed to drive as quickly as possible! These people… it’s their entire job to get there as quickly as possible! They should be allowed to do their job. They are, completely incentivized to drive safely. They’re going to want to drive safely. Let them do that! So, anyway, trucks should be allowed to drive as fast as they want to… it’s ridiculous. So, uh, trucks should be allowed to drive as quickly as they want. Cars should be allowed to drive as quickly as they want…

But if you train people to do this kind of thing where they, they group up into cars moving at like velocities, then you will save a lot of space on the freeway, which in turn translates directly into increased bandwidth, because if all cars that are traveling at a similar speed are grouped together, then they will naturally have a small spacing, because people who are driving together, at the same speed, tend to drive close together. If you’re traveling at the same speed as someone you will feel comfortable traveling very close to them.

And so you’ll get a whole group of people all traveling as a pack, you can train them to drive close to eachother. All this business about traveling four seconds behind the car in front of you is just ludicrous! The car in front of you is not going to be able to accelerate or decelerate significantly faster or slower than you are, and so, if there’s some obstacle that just suddenly appears in the road, they are going to crash into it! And you are too. But that is not going to happen very often, not often enough to make up for the loss of efficiency by spacing cars out at a huge distance. Cars that are traveling at like speeds should group close together and then should have like performances, which is to say that they should be willing and ready to speed up or slow down quickly! Which is the entire job of a driver, to not crash into the car in front of them.

So! Uh, you should have these groups of cars that are… and again this would require driver training… to group up with cars that are traveling at a like speed.

So, here you’ve got a driver who wants to drive quickly, but he’s traveling at the front of a slow pack.

This is not ideal.

Hopefully (and this will happen soon) a car, or group of cars, will pass them and he’ll think to himself “I could drive that speed!” and so he will! It will encourage the slow drivers to drive quickly. He can speed up, as he is at the front of the pack and there is plenty of space in front of him. He’ll have plenty of space to speed up, join with this other pack moving quickly, and then with this quick pack he can travel very close to the car in front of him at a high speed, and this whole pack can travel more quickly.

So I think this is a great idea. We should train people to drive in packs. And when we get to automated cars we should train the automated cars to drive in packs in just such a manner. This will also have an advantageous effect on the traffic signal system, which, if you’ve implemented something that has an efficient system, that uses advance sensors to allow the people to time the lights, will absolutely increase the efficiency of the system because you will have a whole pack of vehicles moving together along a pathway, along a channel, a road or a highway, and when they get to a light the light will change for them if it can (which, often it can). This pack will, by looking at the light, naturally the person in front who wants to go the fastest, who has the capability of going the fastest, will naturally be looking ahead, they’re going to be skilled at what they’re doing, hopefully (Oh! And I’ll get to that in a little bit, one more improvement. But…) they’ll be looking ahead, they’ll be looking and this light and they’ll say “Aah, okay, I’ll slow down so I can time this light perfectly.” The light will be looking at the car and be like “Ooh, okay, this car wants to come. There’s a whole group of them!” Because it can see this, “There’s a whole group of cars coming.” and it will slow down the other group, uh, you know, the people coming the other way, if there’s anyone, and hopefully there’s not because those people have already passed through as a pack, “I’ll stop the people coming the other way and let this pack of cars go through.” The light will change, the whole pack will zoom through the intersection and then the light can immediately start changing back, because it knows that there are no more cars coming because it has sensors there.

So then you’ll have these packs of cars passing through the intersection at a high rate of speed instead of stopping and waiting for the light to change and then starting again, which takes up valuable time.

So that brings us to my last point.

There should be a class of driver that is given special privileges on the road, and which is required to drive in an efficient manner. These people should be, maybe given more training? Maybe based on the number of years they’ve been training? Maybe based on the number of years they’ve been driving? Or the number of accidents they’ve been involved in? Or any number of things, but there should be a special privileged class of drivers who, based on their history with driving (not with drug use, not with criminal activity, not with anything else, but their history with driving) have proven themselves capable and able to drive efficiently on the roads. This includes safety, but it also includes efficiency.

So there should be races on the road helping people to see how quickly they can get from one place to another without causing accidents, because of course accidents slow you down. So you could have these people who are very skilled at driving quickly and safely from one place to another.

And then you should train people… you should first off give these people, aah, special logos or stickers or a paint job or some sort of special status symbol on their vehicle so that they can be like “okay, I am showing off that I am highly skilled at doing this thing that I like to do.” Which is drive safely and well. And then they should be, uh, other people should be trained to follow these people. So then you will have leaders on the road who will be leading a pack of cars who are trained to drive in a cohesive way, and which will result in people who are well trained and excellent at what they do driving quickly and getting other people to follow them quickly and safely through the network of streets. These people will, hopefully, know the area they are driving in well, will have a good sense of when they can, time a light, when they can cut a corner, when they can drive on the sidewalk, when they can do all kinds of things that, normally you would think “Augh! That’s nonsense!” But no! They’ve been trained, they know what they’re doing, they’re capable and skilled and they should be allowed to exhibit those skills to the greatest of their ability.

So there you go! I think that we should improve our transit infrastructure, aah…

Number one by changing the way people think about cars and and roads and trains and all kinds of things, airplanes, uuh, changing it from safety to efficiency, uh, speed of transit, because of course that is the entire point.

And we should improve traffic lights by changing the way they operate, the way they telegraph their internal state, and the way that they are programmed, the incentives for programming them.

I think we should change the way that we, uh, structure traffic laws. I think that people should not be pulled over for speeding, they should only be penalized, heavily, for injuring people and causing delays on the road, because of course causing an accident causes huge delays so that should be the thing that is penalized. Causing delays on the road should be the thing that is penalized, not causing accidents necessarily. Not breaking the law, necessarily, because if you can break the law in a, uh, in a productive manner, a manner that improves the efficiency of the roads, then that law is obviously faulty! It’s working against the entire purpose of the infrastructure!

You should also have a method of incentivizing people to become, and exhibit high skill in driving and encourage other people to follow these skilled drivers, and, uh, maybe offer them discounts on taxes, or something of this manner to get them to drive in an excellent manner. Not just making sure that they’re not crashing into the car in front of them which is currently the Modus Operandi of all traffic laws, but to incentivize them to drive in an exceedingly efficient manner and thereby save everyone else time, which is the point of driving a vehicle.

I am currently driving a vehicle, backing into my parking space. It is a little bit tricky and I am having to think harder than normal because this is, in fact, one of the few places where driving is a two-dimensional problem.

I have been Paul Spooner! This is the Paul Spooner Podcast, and allow me to play you out!

[Marginally Musical Outro]


2 Comments »

  1. British street lights are designed to help you time lights: http://tinyurl.com/p45pg52

    An experiment in removing traffic lights, not exactly what you are talking about, but its an attempt. Again their primary goal was safety as you suspected: http://tinyurl.com/9jzacwy

    The full name is semi-truck and trailer. But nobody says the “-truck and trailer” part.

    A pack of cars approach a green light at high speeds, a car in the middle of the pack needs to turn left (or right), how do you break out of the pack?

    I probably should have just posted this all together.
    [Edit, with our powers combined, so are your comments!]
    Audio of this comment.

    Said by Luke 5/28/2014 at about 22:47

  2. Ahh, very interesting! Clearly, I did no research. Thanks for the pointers!

    If you wanted to turn, you’d probably want to move to the back of the pack, since turning is a “slow” action. But it seems that the majority of the time, cars are going straight. Ultimately, you’d want the whole thing orchestrated from the moment you left your driveway, but that seems to be a ways off.

    Said by Ziggy 5/29/2014 at about 00:38

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