If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Now you can pay even less attention

According to the Beeb:
A convoy of self-driven cars has completed a 200km (125-mile) journey on a Spanish motorway, in the first public test of such vehicles.

The cars were wirelessly linked to each other and "mimicked" a lead vehicle, driven by a professional driver.

The so-called road train has been developed by Volvo. The firm is confident that they will be widely available in future.

The project aims to herald a new age of relaxed driving.

It may be relaxed, but to what extent is it 'driving' at all?  Are we 'driving' when on the bus or in a train?  Seems like the input is about the same.
According to Volvo, drivers "can now work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch" while driving.
Correction: drivers "can continue work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch" while driving.  Ask any motorcyclist, or indeed any car driver with moderate observation skills.

I nearly got taken out in Anna's car this morning.  A 90° blind bend on a tiny country road, van driver in the middle of the road, phone in one hand, enjoying a vigorous conversation, while he palmed the wheel round with the other. When he saw us he palmed the wheel further round with a squeal of tyres and sped off - still talking.

Death penalty for someone, one day.


  1. In other developments, Volvo has announced its "Automatic Wheel Changer". This device operates automatically when any of the 4 tyre sensors detects tyre deflation.

    It transmits its GPS location to the AA and requests a call-out.

  2. There's already the technology to sense when an accident has occurred and to call out the emergency services to a GPS location. The day is not so far off when this will be done for more routine problems. After all, no-one will know what is wrong or how to fix it any more, so it's the next logical step.

    Heh, the printer at work always puzzled me. How did we co-incidentally always get a delivery of paper the day before it ran out? Then I realised - the printer was phoning up and asking, all by itself. Creepy.

  3. It is scary to think how much people try and multi-task instead of paying attention while they are piloting a multi-ton dangerous weapon.

    I really don't think we need to try and auto-pilot vehicles any more It continues with already bad habits.

  4. What is the point of being in a car if the car drives you? If people need to (continue to) check emails, text or phone while driving, why don't they just simply use public transit? Scary!

  5. "The project aims to herald a new age of relaxed driving."

    Somewhat ironic, as the true age of relaxed driving as the Sixties, when there were far fewer cars on the road, freight went mostly by train, people were generally far more law abiding and, dare I say it, we had far fewer foreign drivers on the roads..

  6. "Then I realised - the printer was phoning up and asking, all by itself. Creepy."

    We've got this on our office printers, but for toner, not paper.

  7. It's also an interesting problem for the insurance industry. Is the vehicle safer because you have removed the human element, or less safe because it is impossible to program and test for all possible combinations of circumstance? By the time the passenger in the "driving" seat has woken up and reacted to anything, the accident will have been completed.

    Should these vehicles have free insurance? No joyrider is going to steal something like this, and any accidents must by definition be the fault of the vehicle manufacturer. No doubt they'll just put the premiums up because of the sheer cost of the technology!

    Joe: The TPMS system on my Audi has an occasional bug. If you stall the car then quickly restart it, the TPMS flags up a false report of a flat tyre. Obviously I still check all four with a proper gauge before driving off, but I'm still going to be long gone before the AA arrive! Anyway, shouldn't a proper automatic wheel changer actually fit the spare for you? Sounds a little Wallace-and-Grommit to me....

  8. This is an excellent technological advance - the less input a Volvo driver has the better it is for all of us - I wish Audi would do the same.

    Wouldn't it be good if every car/van/lorry were to be fitted with a collison detection system that would warn of conflicting traffic e.g. approaching motorcycle? The technology exists.

  9. Here in Sussex, we already have road trains. They're long queues of traffic being held up by the myopic pensioner doing 20mph at the head of them: no fancy electronics required. One of the reasons I ride bikes all the time is to completely avoid ever participating in such things.

    Actually, I read this and despair of motorist mentality. Is driving such a devalued activity now that it's seen as an impediment to spending time surfing the 'net? Or has it simply become an entitlement that in no way engenders any responsibility to, well, you know, be capable of doing it yourself?

    @Nikos. "Wouldn't it be good..."? They are. That, I think you'll find, is what the driver is for. It should really be one of the major criteria for continuing to hold a driving license...

  10. I think this is an example of the self-generating nature of technology. When something becomes available, it develops a momentum all of its own, and it becomes impossible not to have it - see ABS, aircon, power steering, warning bleeps. The whole process is to take the driver (and his/her skills and experience) out of the equation as far as possible. I don't think it's a deliberate strategy, but more the nature of technology itself. Where we used to regard driving as a physical and mental skill (and one that was fairly pleasant to exercise), we now see it as just another activity we can automate away, like washing the dishes. After all, chasing up those sales figures and checking your Facebook are seen as high-priority activities by many people today - more important that learning to control a vehicle.

    All reasons why bikes (even these days) rock. However many 'safety enhancements' we have foisted on us, you still have to ride the things, and long may it remain so.

  11. Coincidentally, yesterday - while waiting for an MoT on my VFR (hah - advisories only!) - I had the pleasure of test-riding a new Versys 1000. Good bike, much firmer and more responsive than the old 650 and I don't think I've ever had such a ridiculous amount of torque on tap.

    However, it also comes with adjustable ABS, three different levels of traction control, three power options and there's even an annoying "eco-cycle" thing that flashes up when you're in a state of optimum eco-friendliness. (I didn't see much of the latter, to be fair - just as well, because it looks uncannily and uncoolly like the "wool" setting on my washing machine).

    I didn't use any of the electrickery gizmos, as it happens. I rode it just as if it were a standard, unaugmented motorcycle subject to rider limitations - moderated my throttle use, braked without locking up...all the usual stuff, and none of the clever computerised systems kicked in. I'm reliably informed that it is quite easy to get the traction control active, by giving it a massive handful either on gravel or on a wet corner - two things I've spent decades learning to avoid doing.

    In all honesty, it seemed a little like an exercise in bias confirmation. I genuinely don't want to re-educate myself to do traditionally dangerous things so the bike (rather than me) can go a little bit faster (it wasn't even remotely slow riding to my limits). And if I'm not doing those things, all the electronics seem like an expensive redundancy. Do I need that level of insurance against the occasional misjudgement or mistake - well, I'd like to think not: I don't subscribe to the "if it saves just one life..." mindset, not even if it's my own.

    On the bright side, the 'safety' stuff was all unobtrusive or completely ignorable. On balance, I'd rather it also remained optional.

  12. >However, it also comes with ... an annoying "eco-cycle" thing that flashes up when you're in a state of optimum eco-friendliness.

    Is there something to remove the vomit from the inside of your helmet? Honestly, I think that there are people who are paid to admire the aroma of their own flatulence.


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...