Google’s self-driving car. Image from Treehugger
I’m under the overpass. There’s a motorbike carrying two people and a huge box. Behind that there’s a van carrying one person and nothing. I wonder. Traffic is bad and the more roads you build, the more traffic you get. At some point, somethings got to give. I wonder if there are other ways of thinking about the problem. I’ve often wondered, what if you made cars that were thinner, four people in a row. But that would be odd. What if you made cars that were modular, take one pod out for one person, four for the whole family. Also odd. At this point, also, the investment in current technology means you’d have to clamber down this evolutionary peak to find another one, something that rarely happens. Then I wondered, what if you kept the same technology and just switched road traffic like internet traffic, in packets.
Internet traffic is sent in packets. This is called packet switching because the stuff doesn’t all travel together. One bit might go through here, one through there, but the computer checks the labels at the end and puts it all together. This works. What if we did the same with human traffic?
What if, for example, there were a lot of self-driving cars on the road. This is not sci-fi, Google has tested a fleet of self-driving cars that have already travelled 140,000 plus miles by themselves. A lot of the technology is already in consumer cars like the Toyota Prius. Then, what if, you could simply hop in and out of those cars as needed. You might be sitting with different people, but the you’d all be packets, eventually reaching your destination.
Finally, to the point, what if that package on the overloaded motorbike was in the van with plenty of room beside it. That van drive would get a bit of credit and things would move around more efficiently. A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but not an implausible idea.