Nov 262019

I probably won’t live to see any truly impressive smart road infrastructure. I hope I make it another 30-35 years, and that’s just not long enough for automated driving to become mainstream.

I think my kids will see it, though. I think they’ll see what’s possible with control stations, switches, monitors, and smart cars sharing a standard interface to move cars automatically and efficiently, with long periods of no human interaction necessary (and little required of sensory hardware on your car itself). Imagine driving to the interstate, connecting to the grid, and just checking out. Play cards, take a nap, knit, have a video conference, whatever.

Of course, you would have to drive (or your car would have to drive you operating “offline”) to the interstate, and probably major surface roads for a while too. The massive grid probably won’t come right to your door. (Shoot, I can’t even get Google Fiber.) And then, near the end of your destination, there would be need to be a handoff from the grid back to you/your car to finish the trip.

In 2019, there is nothing above that is particularly technically challenging. The biggest obstacle is cost. (There are also some liberty concerns, too—government systems knowing where you are at all times, and what-not—but honestly, isn’t that frog just about boiled now?)

As I ate my lunch today, I thought about that cost and had an idea.

Obviously a system should be designed to move the most amount of traffic the most efficiently. It could get smarter, too, taking advantage of what it learns about traffic volume by area on different days of the week, during different times of the year, and so forth. So, the goal would be the best possible efficiency for the largest number of people.

But what if you could spend money to game the system? Imagine finding yourself stuck, but with an option to spend $50 to get the system to prefer the traffic flow containing your vehicle for the next 20 minutes. Then imagine it coming back and saying so sorry, Mr. Williams, a motorist in a competing flow has outbid you. Would you like to spend $100? And so forth.

People could brag about how much their commute was that morning. Moreover, it should be a popular thing, since the flow containing the privileged purchaser would also contain a lot of other folks who would benefit without paying. And the smart superhighway gets funded!

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 Posted by at 2:20 pm

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