I must admit I was a little disappointed when I first heard the details of Ford's new Gridlock Escape System, being discussed for release in 2015 or later. The name just conjures up so many possibilities. I'm sure many of you had visions of flying cars capable of at least briefly hovering you from the expressway to an access road, or somesuch, and you'd probably think I was at the front of that line.
In reality, however, I immediately imagined automated cars programmed to drive just slightly slower than the prevailing gridlock speed to break up "Traffic Waves", and the real Gridlock Escape System doesn't so much allow one to actually escape from gridlock or eliminate it, but rather frees one from the drudgery of the rather trivial task of creeping forward in gridlock, freeing you for other activities (though Traffic wave/block lysis could easily be a side effect if such cars became any significant percentage of the traffic -- less than 1% would be sufficient, if explicitly programmed with that goal; certainly 10% should be more than enough without special programming)
I see this as a practical first step toward automated cars (already been tested for millions of car-miles, in total). Cars already park themselves better than most humans
As I have often recounted over the years, one of my early "coulda won a Nobel" projects ca 1980 was a traffic simulator running on an Apple II+. I had the ambition of selling it as a game, and an incidental back-door platform to understand/solve traffic jams -- what we'd now call "crowdsourcing a solution". I gave it up after a couple of years of off and on work, partly because of paradoxical-seeming results and partly because the best tips I could work out were behavioral, not structural, and while it was *barely* plausible that road designers might take heed of its findings ["not invented here"], it was unthinkable that any significant fraction of the American public would know what they were doing behind the wheel (Indeed, I've found people who consider themselves "expert" drivers to be particularly resistant to the idea that 1-3 cars could break up many traffic jams by simply driving slightly slower and accelerating less often/quickly than "normal". Even when shown that it worked, they staunchly rejected such driving)
As it turned out, I wasn't alone in making such isolated observations, but we "civilian traffic researchers" had no way to discover each other and share our findings until the Internet of the mid-late 90s (Google "traffic waves"), but even today, when many of these findings are accepted by civil engineers, we who understand and are willing to take action to "lyse" traffic waves are too few to have much effect. I could easily see substantial gains from automated "traffic control vans" that slowed down to prevent the bunching up that leads to most highway jams, or the counterproductive "bumper creep" packing and exit/intersection blocking that leads to classic gridlock.
Ford working on "Gridlock escape system" in near term
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