Driving is becoming more and more automated: We rely on GPS, cars can even park for you...and now Toshiba's automated a nearby traffic alert system that solves the tricky problem of avoiding heavy traffic up ahead on the road.
The core of the system are Dedicated Short Range Communications units (DSRC) that are dotted along roads and communicate with in-car alert systems. The idea would be to sprinkle freeways with sensors and DSRCs and network everything up so it becomes one big safety system.
It's pretty simple—Toshiba's system would be able to detect a clump of stationary or unusually slow-moving cars ahead of a bend, and it would tell the DSRC's before the bend to flash an alert to oncoming cars warning of the traffic ahead. Exactly as the diagram shows—though there'd be a mix of audible, voice and visual alerts so the driver distraction was minimized. That sounds pretty useful. But the next example Toshiba gives sounds less sensible. This time, it's designed to stop you clashing with cars about to merge onto the freeway from a slip-road—the same detection and alert tricks would go on, only you'd be advised of a merging car.
Doesn't that sound a little too distracting? And if you're driving shouldn't you be paying attention to junctions and so on so that you're aware cars may be joining your lane? To me, it all sounds like Toshiba's taking too much of the real mental activity out of driving, with the potential it'll create a generation of drivers who rely too much on computer power and less on real driving skill.
But maybe that's just me: IBM's just performed a study that seems to show exactly how painful an experience driving has become. The study seems to indicate that the recession has added an extra twist to the already uncomfortable experience of commuting thanks to rising traffic and gas prices. Of some 4,400 U.S. city drivers surveyed, 52% think road traffic has got worse over the last three years, and 16% think "much worse." Stop-start traffic is a seriously rising problem (45% say it's the most frustrating part of a commute, compared to 37% last year) and aggressive or rude drivers seem to be more common (32% say it's a the worst thing, up from 24% last year.)
One big take-away stat from the survey is that 27% of responders say "accurate and timely road condition information would help reduce travel stress," compared to 23% of those drivers questioned last year. That seems to indicate a growing awareness of technology in drivers minds, and a genuine desire for some sort of traffic-warning system akin to Toshiba's design.
Are you going to use this holiday weekend to take a trip? Would Toshiba's system be a boon or a technological curse for you, do you think?