Sustainable future for the Auto in L.A.?

running red test
Intelligent Vehicle in a "running the red" test.

Yesterday I sat in on a panel discussion with some pretty esteemed folks discussing the future of the automobile and its sustainability as a transportation mode in the Los Angeles “Megacity” of the future.  The panel consisted of local government bodies, think tanks and the like.  All agreed that the freeways now are full and it will only get worse when a project 50% population growth takes place over the next couple of decades.  There is no money for new freeways or other transportation infrastructure so we have to make the best of what we have.  That means finding ways to reduce congestion and traffic which will help with air quality and general quality of life.

One of the solutions is “intelligent vehicles” that communicate with each other to avoid accidents that cause congestion and traffic jams in the first place.  Other solutions to reduce traffic include “congestion taxes” in certain population centers in the area as well as “road taxes”.  These taxes will be used to fund the infrastructure needed to make intelligent vehicles work.

An intelligent vehicle is one that communicates with others on the roadway.  It shares basic info such as direction of travel and speed and allows the systems to warn each other of potential hazards.  Alarms go off when such a hazard is detected to alert driver to potential problems to make decisions on how to avoid a collision.  Further down the road there will be sensors on the roadways that collect data from numerous cars on the road to alert them of problems and alternate routes to avoid congestion or jams.

Currently the Feds have a plan to have such a system going by 2013.  GM and Ford are working with them to come up with standards on what info is shared within the system so to maximize benefit.  The plan is to start having these intelligent cars and roadways in place a few years after that.  Megacities such as Los Angeles are the prime targets for the systems.  “Intelligent Vehicles” (IV for short) aren’t autonomous rather they provide information to drivers to make informed decisions on how to avoid hazards or congestion.

Part of the day included getting to ride in “intelligent vehicles” and run through a variety of scenarios to see how the system works to avoid hazards.  It is a GPS type system that tracks movement of autos and shares the info with others around it.  The test involved 3 Ford IV cars and the following YouTube video takes you through how the system works and what scenarios it can help prevent common accidents that lead to congestion and jams. Video HERE.

2 thoughts on “Sustainable future for the Auto in L.A.?”

  1. Thanks, this is interesting. I’m curious if 2 subjects came up:
    1. The temptation for law enforcement to use IV speed data to send zillions of speeding tickets based on the e-data they receive at their computer terminals.
    2. The role of public transportation in L.A., seeing as how it would be a stretch to say we can somehow IV our way out of the explosion in traffic that would likely accompany a 50% population increase.

    1. AAA brought up the issue of privacy and it was felt that there wasn’t specific info about a particular auto, IE Plate etc shared to be able to ticket directly.
      Public Transportation options are pretty much flat through the growth period as there is just no money for it out there. This panel touched on more use of public transportation by using congestion fees/taxes to shift people out of cars in dense areas and hope to have them opt into Public Trans. The problem with PT still lies in that there is no new infrastructure money out there to increase public trans either so it comes to making the best of what we have.

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