Now here’s a really, really cool invention by a Chinese engineer. What?! You say? The Chinese actually made something high tech that doesn’t help the government censor political dissidents?! Truly shocking, I know.
It’s a surface bus/train that straddles the road so cars can drive underneath it, serving the role of mass-transit while not exacerbating pre-existing traffic problems. According to the video in the above link, the cost of creating above-ground tracks for these “3D fast busses” is a fraction of the cost of digging for a subway, and it’s much quicker to build. It even runs on electricity to boot. The first system of its kind is expected to be implemented near the end of this year.
It seems like such an obvious idea too. In the words of Dirk Gently when talking about the invention of the cat flap by Sir Isaac Newton: “Ah! It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto nonexistent, blindingly obvious.” True creative genius must have been at work here.
This invention tangentially reminded me (hence the name of this post) of the idea of a fully automated traffic system. Imagine if you can, cars that drive themselves and only require of you, the passengers, the commitment of sitting, sleeping, watching your favourite movie, or being completely hammered and passed out on the back seat. Sci-fi sounding perhaps, but automatic vehicles have already been created and implemented. Teams around the world have also been designing and improving AI capable of replacing human drivers, with very impressive results.
True, so far the implemented AI-controlled transportation systems are limited to tracked vehicles or buses that have their own unique lanes, but is it too unfeasible to extrapolate those into a city-wide system where every single vehicle is controlled by a grand, overarching, wireless traffic control system? The advantages would be obvious: traffic jams would be virtually non-existent due to the system’s ability to calculate the best possible routes for all vehicles with constantly updated information in real time. Accidents due to human ineptitude would drop to zero. And who wouldn’t like to have a nap, grab a drink, and open a book on the trip to work instead of staring constantly and fearfully at other cars through the wind shield?
What would be the downside to this? As far as I can see, none. I suppose driving schools would probably get much less business, and insurance companies might raise a ruckus, but just think about how many people die from traffic accidents every year – 2000-3000 in Canada alone. The big objection, I feel, would probably come from ordinary people who don’t want to relinquish control of their own cars. Somehow, getting ferried from one place to another all the time might feel like your freedom and choice have been taken away. But I’d like to think of it as no different as having a chauffeur driving you around. I suppose many people would say that they like driving, to which I would respond by proposing that there be designated driving areas where one could take manual control if they want, but the high-traffic areas would be completely automatic. Country sides would also be not automatic, so if people wanted to drive outside the city, they could.