New Technology for the Roads... a brief Summary.

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Introduction.
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Times have changed since the golden years of the automobile a few decades ago.  Today... congestion: pollution: and safety problems: are intensifying.  Outbreaks of 'Road Rage' may be a symptom of a system that is cracking under the strain, as poorly trained drivers of... powerful cars: commercial vehicles: sports utilities: and motorcycles: vie with... cyclists: pedestrians: and other road users: for increasingly scarce roadway space.
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There has recently been a shift in focus from Engineering and Enforcement as solutions to traffic problems... back to the Training and Education of road users.  However... recent rapid advances in Information Technology have re-energised the search for Technological Solutions.  Drivers will need to understand the benefits and disadvantages of these Technologies in order to participate effectively in political decisions about their implementation.
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Some of the New Technologies being Developed.

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The following is a brief summery of some of the different types of Technology being developed... and their possible uses.  Some of these Technologies may be very beneficial... depending on how they are applied: [i.e. there is little point in putting everyone to enormous expense to solve a small problem... or one that can easily be circumvented by serious offenders... like installing Face Recognition Technology, if wanted criminals are going to be uncooperative and start wearing... hats: sunglasses: scarves: grow beards: etc.]  Governments need to look at ways Technology can be used to engage road users in pro-active ways... rather than simply using it to try and monitor, control or punish them.
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Intelligent Speed Adaptation.  Would mean controlling vehicles using GPS Technology.  The vehicle knows exactly where it is... add a piece of software... and the vehicle knows what the speed limit is on any particular stretch of road.  The vehicle also knows what speed it is doing... so whenever the driver tries to exceed a speed limit... the fuel will be cut... or brakes applied... making it physically impossible for the driver to exceed a speed limit.  See Article.  They have not outlined their plans for older, vintage or classic cars... where the electronics would be incompatible... or for vehicles entering 'The Zone' from a foreign country.
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ISA, 2007.  The developers seem to be backing away from the most extreme example of ISA.  Because... if they take control of the vehicle... then they will have to accept some responsibility for what happens as a result.  In their latest model... a driver will be able to over-ride the system... but this fact will be recorded... and may be used against them in some way.  Basically... they will have the power to control... but the driver responsibility.
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Dynamic Speed Adaptation.  Getting drivers to adjust their speed to desired levels to accommodate other road users' needs is an on going problem.  DSA Technology offers remote speed advice to drivers about appropriate speeds in particular stretches of roadway.  [Trials are being planned in Sweden and the Netherlands.]  Drivers can respond to emergencies in a combination of three ways... they can brake: manoeuvre: or accelerate... and many experts believe it is important than none of these options are removed.  Any system than over-rides the actions of the driver is going to have to accept some of the responsibility when things go wrong.
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Cameras... of every kind are already proliferating at an incredible rate... static Gatso Speed Cameras: mobile Radar units: Cameras that measure speeds over long distances: [SPECS - sometimes a few klms... sometimes hundreds of klms] Red-Light Cameras: Cameras watching Traffic-flow: Cameras controlling congestion charges: cameras mounted on Police cars: etc.  And in the not to distant future... Cameras that read number plates and instantly compare them to a National Database so illegal vehicles can be intercepted... and Face Recognition Technology, so wanted criminals can be intercepted.
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Road Pricing Technologies.  One way of avoiding traffic bans imposed by politicians... Bengt Forsman of Sweden's Combitech Traffic Systems suggests... is to cause drivers to be more efficient in their use of roads by using automated pricing systems... in which they pay according to use.  Forsman goes on to say " In most cases... today's drivers pay the same for road use regardless of when they travel: [rush hour, for example,] how much they pollute: the risks they pose to other road users: or the wear they inflict on the roadway.  Effective road pricing would make traffic and road use more efficient by charging drivers [or vehicle owners] according to their level and efficiency of road use".
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Automated Tolls.  A variety of automated tolling systems are coming into use around the world... with a sophisticated system of cameras and electronic payment systems, combining to extract payment by degree of road use.  Electronic toll roads are becoming popular around the world as a means of funding highway maintenance and development.  One of the goal's of China's ninth five-year plan was the completion of 150,000 miles of Highway by the year 2,000.  Financing by means of tolling systems was a key element of this plan.
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Driver Assistance Technologies.  These Technologies... being developed by such companies as Audi and BMW... offer drivers assistance in the form of Information flow... and if the Technology Developers have their way, into some form of input into the control of the vehicle itself.  [Read BMW Report for details.]
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Adaptive Cruise Control.  Uses sensors to gather Information about the roadway ahead.  This Information can then be used to automatically control the vehicle speed.  Image Processing Techniques and sophisticated Object Tracking Devices, can be used to take over control of the vehicle in limited situations... such as motorway driving.
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Heading Control Systems... used to make steering easier.  Video cameras provide Information about lane markings and Electro Servo Motors provide input into the steering of the vehicle.
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Road Angel GPS

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Car Navigation Systems... used to aid drivers in finding their destination... avoiding congestion... and using roads efficiently.  Global Positioning Systems can tell the driver... the exact position of the vehicle in relation to a map.  Information about... traffic: local points of interest: or where to turn to reach a destination: can be supplied to the driver, using an Onboard Computer System.
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Traffic Message Channels.  Today's radio traffic reports have the disadvantage that drivers often have to listen to a great deal of Information before getting what they need to make a decision, and they may not get it in time.  Future traffic reports are likely to come from specialised channels encoded in radio signals and can be called up at any time.
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Emergency Response Technology.  With the power of Information Technology... the vehicle of the future will always be in touch with assistance.  Even if the car that goes off the road and crashes in a remote area... leaving it's occupants unconscious... will be able to relay an emergency call to the most appropriate source of assistance required.  The deployment of an airbag can be the signal to send a message to a service provider... and in turn summon immediate emergency assistance to an exact location as specified by the GPS co-ordinates.
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Galileo.  Central to many of these technologies is the introduction of the Galileo Satelite Navigation System.  If offers a whole range of options... many good... some that could be really awful... depending on how they are used.  With the possibility that every mobile phone... and every vehicle could be fitted with a tracking system it has the potential to turn the "Big Brother" scenario into a reality.  Have a look at their website and form your own opinion... [See Galileo Industries.]
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Electronic Vehicle Identification.  As stated in a Report from the E.U... the main target of Electronic Vehicle Identification is the eventual development of an electronic, unique identifier for all motor vehicles... which would enable a wealth of applications... many of them of crucial importance for the public authorities to combat... congestion: a whole range of driving offences: and vehicle crime on European roads.  And that such a system should be standardised and interoperable across the whole of the E.U. and eventually the whole world.
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The CitySafety system.  Being launched about autumn 2008 on the Volvo XC60 [followed by Mercedes and Honda] is described as "anti-collision" technology.  A front mounted, laser-guidance system can detect other vehicles up to 6 metres in front, on your side of the road... can sense the speed your vehicle is approaching the one ahead... and will brake if necessary.  Aims to prevent rear-end collisions below 10mph... and reduce any impact between 10-20mph.  Has a separate "adaptive cruise control" system for higher speeds.
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On the down-side... if it works drivers are likely to pay even less attention to the road: [Volvo drivers paying even less attention... can this really be desirable?]  100% responsibility remains with the driver... if the system prevents an accident, it takes the credit... if it crashes, that's your fault.  It might detect vehicles in front... but not those that turn across your path... or pedestrians, cyclists, motorbikes, etc. etc.  On a motorway... if someone pulls in front of you from another lane... the system is likely to hit the brakes... when you wouldn't bother: [which should be avoided as it causes even more braking behind which can spark a "phantom traffic jam"] and won't brake when you might... [because you see a hazardous situation developing ahead of you.]  If you accelerate up behind another vehicle in order to overtake it... just before you pull out... the system may detect the vehicle in front, and brake, just as you are trying to accelerate... leaving you in danger of being rear-ended by any following vehicle.  This system won't just step in and save you by intervening on the odd occasion when you're not paying attention... it will continually interfere with your decisions when you are paying attention.
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V2V Information.  Is a system that knows where vehicles are in relation to one another... and can pass this Information on.  The idea is... for example, you are approaching a blind corner and another vehicle has stopped just around the bend... it knows you are approaching and warns you.  It is not difficult to foresee some problems with this.  Rather than drivers slowing down so that they can stop within the distance they can see is clear... they may start to assume that the road is clear unless they are warned otherwise.  Eventually, there will be something around the bend that the system has not registered... be it a Tractor coming out of a field... an animal crossing the road... a cyclists? children? etc. etc.
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Self-driving cars.  Quite a lot of progress is being made but the age of the self-driving car still appears to be decades away.  Technology is very good at some things... knowing where it is... how fast it is going, etc. but very poor at interpreting situations on a busy city street or predicting what might happen in the next few seconds.  The system itself is not really going to work unless it controls all vehicles.  It may also encounter another major obstacle... drivers simply do not want to give up control of their vehicles.  And manufacturers are not going to be keen in accepting responsibility if the system is not 100% reliable an accidents still happen.
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The Internet... is a piece of Technology that is extremely good at gathering large volumes of Information from many different sources... rearranging that Information to produce various types of Statistics and Data... and then making that Information easily accessible.  So far... this is one system of accident prevention which is not being seriously investigated.  Having a Road Supervisor type system is about engaging drivers in a pro-active way... making them an integral part of the system... rather than just trying to monitor, control... or punish them.  It's about managing the quality of Information that goes into the system... identifying specific problems... and then using that Information to develop a range of strategies based on... Motivation: Deterrents: Targeted Education: Social Pressure: Enforcement: and Punishment.
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Video Cameras.  The best evidence you can have of dangerous driving... or assigning blame for an accident is to have video evidence.  With the cost of cameras becoming ever lower it is quite conceivable that in future all new vehicles could have front and rear mounted cameras which record on a continuous loop.  In the event of an accident... information could be downloaded which would show the accident from the drivers point of view... [and possibly... the way they were driving in the few minutes before any accident.]  There could even be a 'Save' button... so short pieces of film could be saved showing incidents of dangerous driving... which could later be uploaded to a website to form a part of a Road Supervisor's Report.
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