Monday, 14 March 2016

existential solipsism and the art of motorway driving


I suppose the impending announcement of driverless truck trials will become an easy source of pickings for cartoonists, especially if it gets announced on Wednesday as part of the budget gimmicks.

The design is to provide platoons of trucks spaced close together in a convoy, as if on rails, all operating on the same autonomous wireless system software.

Call me old-fashioned, but the effect of it seems to me something like a railway train?

It's supposed to be based on the AHS (automated highway system) and there's already a Europe-wide system called SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) which has been trialled by the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Scania. Being called SARTRE, I suppose it will have an existential attitude, perhaps characterised by a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.

I'm also a frequent user of the M25, and I can't help notice there that there's always a few motorists who consider themselves so important that they can cut across 3 or 4 lanes of traffic to exit through a tiny gap at the last second like in that Channel 4 ident.

These planned road trains appear to operate with a maximum 6 metre gap between vehicles, so a block of say 4 or 5 articulated lorries could make the 'important motorist manoeuvre' a thing of the past.

My car already has some of the technology that these new road trains will incorporate: lane control, overtaking warnings, automatic speed management, traffic jam auto edge forward, radar and that thing that tells me when I should stop for a coffee.

Mine has a twister control that allows the distance from the variable speed vehicle ahead to be adjusted. I always keep it on maximum gap. I suppose that for the 'important motorists' it will become a technology arms race to get the latest gizmos and to run with 'minimum gap' selected.

That assumes, of course, that it all works. One of our cars has the rather simpler Stop/Start capability which cuts the engine at traffic lights to reduce emissions.

And guess what? It only works for part of the year. When the temperature drops it switches off, presumably because of the number of energy using systems running in the car.


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