Scrupuli

blunt essays with sharp points

Intelligent Transportation Systems

by Scrvpvlvs
Mar 12, 2008 6:34 PM–The Freakonomics blog was talking here about what causes traffic jams, and this reminded me of something I wanted to write about.

The traveling exhibit Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination came to our science museum not too long ago.

In one video, a senior civil engineer (who I believe was Joseph Sussman at MIT) pointed out that we have designed in to our current transportation system a certain rate of crashes. As long as we use roadways, drivers, and vehicles the way we do, there will be these crashes. Traffic will back up, and worse, people will be injured or killed.

This transportation design is why the current safety model wraps large amounts of metal and safety gear around the motorists.

Significantly for our petroleum consumption, most of the fuel burned by personal vehicles turns out to be moving the vehicle, not the passengers. And, of course, a substantial amount of the cost of the vehicle is the safety system.

He also pointed out that many modern cities were designed in the automobile age. Destinations in such cities are very far apart. It becomes difficult to make public transportation of any kind effective in these cities on existing roads.

He was arguing for intelligent transportation systems. The benefits, he said, are huge in accident prevention, fuel consumption, and trip times. The difficulty is that the project is the size of what we did with rail and with the interstate highways, and probably requires a sea change in attitudes about piloting one's vehicle.

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