Archive for Motorways

Self-Driving Lorries – Yes or No!

Posted in America, Britain, Demonstration, England, Europe, Modern World, News, Police, Traffic, UK with tags , , , , on 21/08/2014 by floroy1942

I have just read a report that the United Kingdom is to trial self-driving trucks next year, and from what I read I can see a lot of confusion on the roads if this becomes a reality.

How It Works

How It Works

The plan is for a fleet of trucks to drive a few feet apart on our roads, all being controlled by the driver in the lead vehicle. Information will be passed from truck to truck via WiFi signals, infra-red cameras and lasers.

What for example would happen if  they lose the WiFi signal or experience interference that suddenly disrupts the signal? You know it happens because you have probably experienced it with your computer.

This idea may sound fine until you look into the logistics of it. From my perspective, I see the possibility of mass chaos on our roads in such an event.

Try Passing This Lot

Try Passing This Lot

Can you imagine the problems of passing say, ten trucks all driving a few feet apart and you want to overtake? Maybe not such a problem on motorways, but what about on normal roads? What will happen to the convoy when it comes to a round-a-bout? What will happen if the convoy has to go through a town?

All the trucks in the convoy are totally reliant on the driving skills of the lead driver, so it would take an exceptional driver to take responsibility for every vehicle in the convoy.

Confusing!

Confusing!

I can well imagine the Police having a dilemma too if the lead driver is caught speeding. Do they issue a ticket only to the lead driver, or to each one in the convoy, because basically they are all speeding.

Just as an aside, I wonder how the insurance companies will handle claims if an accident happens? Will the lead driver’s insurance cover all the vehicles because he is ‘in charge’. I doubt it. I can see a lot of squabbling going on between the companies as they try to sort out who is responsible for what!

It may sound like a good idea, but I can see it being fraught with problems, especially for other road users. I can just imagine the frustration of driving behind such a convoy, wanting to overtake but not being able to. This situation usually leads to accidents when someone takes a chance and tries to force their way past.

UK Roundabout Chaos

UK Roundabout Chaos

You can be sure there will be confusion at round-a-bouts when the convoy gets broken up because trucks have to give way to others with priority. The same can be said if they have to travel through a town.

Britain is not like America where you can drive for several hundred miles between cities on scarcely populated roads. With the exception of the motorways, roads in Britain are crowded, narrow, twisty and with populated areas every few miles. So in my view, such a thing is impractical in Britain.

Another big problem I see with such an idea is traffic safety. The driver of the lead vehicle must make decisions for the whole convoy, and naturally his mind is occupied. The following drivers however will have nothing to do because their vehicle is under his control. The situation will result in these drivers perhaps doing paperwork, gazing out the window or even falling asleep, especially at night.

And In An Emergency The Response Time Is.........?

And In An Emergency The Response Time Is………?

So what happens when a frustrated car driver trying to overtake the column, is forced by an on-coming car to pull into the few scant feet between two following vehicles? The mind of any driver must be ‘on the road’ at all times, otherwise accidents are inevitable. Driving a truck from London to Glasgow is tiring for anyone, but to be sat behind the wheel with nothing to do makes the problem ten times worse.

Looking at this idea from a global perspective, I can well see that it would work in Europe for trucks travelling from e.g. Calais in France to Madrid in Spain, or from Eastern Europe to the west, for these vehicles travel perhaps a thousand kilometres or more, and mainly on motorways.

The world today has more than it’s fair share of bad drivers, but to take away control of a heavy goods vehicle from the driver on English roads is to me a recipe for disaster.

So The EU Wants To Limit My Speed

Posted in Britain, England, Europe, Germany, Insanity, Modern World, Police, Politics, Spain, UK with tags , , , , on 03/09/2013 by floroy1942

It has just been announced that the EU is planning to have all cars in Europe fitted with automatic speed limiters that will come into effect every time you pass a speed limit sign. Well for my money they can kiss my backside! While some may believe that it could cut down on accidents I very much doubt it. The reason I think that is because in my view most are caused by driver crass stupidity, alcohol, drugs, or mobile phones.

How The System Works

How The System Works

It is said the system will involve camera’s being mounted on every car to read the available speed limit signs, and a black box somewhere in the car which will beam it on to a satellite from which the command will come back to apply the brakes. It seems the system will have three options, Firstly it will give an audible warning, secondly it will slow the car down but give the driver the option of turning the device off, or it will be mandatory.  I think the ‘mandatory’ bit is certainly fraught with danger, audible warnings will often be disregarded and if you can switch it off what’s the point of having it in the first place. Doesn’t make sense to me! What about when a lorry or van is parked on the side of the road obscuring the speed limit sign from the camera? Oops – we haven’t thought of that!

Whooosh And Its Gone

Whooosh And Its Gone

Can you even begin to imagine what this ‘law’ would do to the stocks and shares of Ferrari, Lamborghini and other super fast car manufacturers? I simple cannot imagine a Ferrari being restricted to a maximum of 70mph which is the top speed limit in the UK reserved for motorways. The only country in Europe where you would be able to ‘let-rip’ would be Germany, because I can never see them accepting something as crass as this.

The EU plan is for every new car to be fitted with the device and they plan, apparently, to make it law that all cars already on the road must have it fitted. As a car owner I wonder who is going to pay for this contraption (there is no other word for it) to be fitted to my car? Me? Not bloody likely!

Having lived on the Costa del Sol in Spain for a several years now I can attest to the stupidity of some drivers, in fact I have frequently said most of them here should not be allowed to control a kiddie’s three-wheel bike, let alone a car. On four separate occasions at a particular set of traffic lights on a junction in Marbella I have almost been rammed in the side by idiots who think red lights don’t apply to them. You see it on the roads here every day.

Marbella A7 - One In The Middle Lane One In The Outside Lane And Not Another Car In Sight

Marbella A7 – One In The Middle Lane One In The Outside Lane And Not Another Car In Sight

They love the outside lane on two lane carriageways and the middle lane on three-lane motorways. Very often there is no traffic at all on the inside lane, and everyday you see people overtaking a line of cars on the inside and then forcing their way into the next lane when they come up behind a slow lorry or car.

Coming back from Malaga airport recently on the main three-lane motorway, I saw a black Porsche weaving from one lane to the next at high speed, overtaking in any lane that had a gap. I have no idea if he got to his destination, but if he did God was certainly working overtime to keep him alive.

I am aware this sort of behaviour is mostly in the south, for many drivers in the north of Spain are a little better, but when you drive in many countries of Europe as I have done, there are bad, and stupid, drivers in every country. Watching their antics makes you wonder how they ever got their licence.

Just About Right For Some Drivers

Just About Right For Some Drivers

The case for alcohol and drugs causing accidents is well known and  I will not go into it here. But how about the mobile phone? Millions of people answer their mobile while driving, and almost as many are guilty of doing such silly things as texting while driving. All very stupid, for there is no way you can have your brain and  eyes on the road when you are fiddling with the phone trying to type out a text message. It just cannot be done, for the phone requires 100% of your attention. This is often when accidents happen.

Some Statistics - Note The 77%

Some Statistics – Note The 77%

With mobiles in mind, I have said before that the only way to cut out this hazard is for there to be a very short-range jammer fitted on all cars that will prevent the receiving and making of calls while the engine is running. It can be a signal that shuts down the phone completely until the engine is once more switched off. Some will argue, well what about the passengers? Well, to answer that, what if the device was fitted into the steering wheel boss and the beam only covered the drivers position? Signal strength, range and spread can be tailored these days with any radio type device. But that is just an idea, and it will not get the stupid people off the road.

There can be little doubt that the two major accident causes still remain stupidity and alcohol. So far as stupidity goes the only answer there may be to have an automatic device that will lobotomise the driver if he does something silly, but that will take at least 75% of drivers off the road and we can’t have that, but come to think of it, wouldn’t it be heaven, and the planet would love us too. To combat the drunks maybe we need to fit all cars with a breathalyzer in the steering wheel too and the car won’t start until you pass the test.

Motorway

Motorway

Either way I do not see the EU proposal as doing anything useful except maybe causing more accidents in situations where a sudden burst of speed can get you out of trouble. I agree with the commentators who have said that the EU has become a ‘nanny’ state, and I for one am sick of them trying to impose on everyone these idiotic ideas that have not been thought out properly. The only transport system that will totally remove the problem of accidents will be robotic cars where you can relax reading the paper while the car takes you to your destination automatically. Until then EU:- Shove it!

Roy.

Road Trains – Will They Work?

Posted in Britain, England, Environment, Europe, Germany, Modern World, Spain, Traffic, Travel, UK, USA with tags , , , on 25/11/2009 by floroy1942

Research is being done to develope a wireless controlled system for forming so-called ‘Road Trains’ on European roads. The general idea is for vehicles to drive within a metre or two of each other along motorways in the future, thus forming a ‘train’. When joining a train, you would hand over complete control of your car to the lead vehicle, who would then make decisions for the entire ‘train’. It is thought this could improve traffic flow on major roads.

Your car would be controlled by radio signals from the lead vehicle, with a form of radar to maintain seperation. While all this is going on you, the driver, could be reading the newspaper or playing games on your laptop.

It may sound like a good idea, but could it possibly work? People being what they are, it may work to some degree, but you see on the road today everyone likes to travel at a different speed to everyone else. For many people there is also the question of trust in the system. Pilotless passenger aircraft are a reality, but who would travel in one? People like to be ‘in control’.

I see road trains every day when I drive on the motorway in Spain because the Spanish like to drive in the middle lane of a three lane highway. Consequently everyone is squeezed into the outside lane trying to overtake. It is a common sight to see the outside lane nose-to-tail, a smattering of cars in the middle lane, and almost nothing on the inside lane except the occasional truck. The story is similar for a two lane motorway, everyone is in the outside lane trying to overtake the car in front.

So this begs the question, would road trains solve this problem? It may do if there are dedicated lanes for this traffic, but otherwise, no! It will also depend on the speed of the train. For some it will be too fast, and for others too slow.

The question of insurance claims also comes to mind. If a train, or part of it, were to be involved in an accident who would bear the blame, insurance-wise that is? Would the lead driver, who controls the train, be liable to pay for damage to all vehicles in ‘his’ train? Something the developers have not thought of yet.

Whatever happens, it is certain that a major shift in people’s thinking and driving habits will be necessary for such a system to work. It’s the old story of; “It sounds good on paper” but in practicality ………?

I’ll leave you to decide.

Roy.

‘Middle of the Road’ Used to be a Group!

Posted in Britain, England, Environment, Europe, Germany, Insanity, Police, Spain, Traffic, Travel, UK, USA with tags , , , , , on 01/03/2009 by floroy1942

I reported on my road trip from Spain to Holland, and thought the item really begs a follow-on, because driving through four countries, was an ideal opportunity to compare driving standards across Europe, or part of it anyway.Driving in Spain is sometimes a lottery because the Spanish are VERY macho when it comes to their ‘Cocha’ and driving. In a newspaper article I read recently, they were decribed as “frustrated bull-fighters” that had taken to the road. I guess this just about sums them up really. Ole!!

In Spanish towns, you will often hear a cacophony of two-tone horns, single tone horns, and often cheeky beeps if you don’t pull away fast enough from the lights, or if you are accidentally blocking their route. It is not unusual to see someone driving at breakneck speed through the town and even worse on the motorway. For some, even traffic lights are to be ignored. Amazing!

As in most big towns world-wide, the scooters zipping in and out between cars is something that would give any old lady a heart attack.

I drive fairly regularly on one or two motorways where I live, and the most frustrating thing is people who drive down the middle lane of a three lane highway. They even sit in the third lane of a four lane motorway. This is extremely frustrating if you have to cross two or three lanes in order to pass them, and you waste your time flashing them or hooting at them because they will not move over – at least, not until their exit comes up. Overtaking on the inside is a regular occurrence, even if illegal.

In the seventies and eighties this was a constant problem in Britain and still is. There were even TV debates on the subject, and those guilty of this breach in highway etiquette, and the Highway Code, often said “But the inside lane is for trucks” Duh! Nincompoops! Idiots! It is quite obvious that none of them had ever heard of the Highway Code, let alone read it!

For my American readers, let me just say that in Europe you must overtake on the left (right in Britain) unlike the USA where you may, I believe, overtake on both sides.

Now to get back to the point, this is a constant occurrence both in Spain and Belgium, and the strange thing is, in both countries, the majority of offenders are women drivers. Sorry girls, but it is a fact. That is not to say men don’t do it because they too are guilty. It is sad to note that none of this has any impression on the Police in any country. They are completely disinterested in the entire affair and take no action at all.

Another annoying thing about driving in Spain is people who drive on full headlights all the time, totally ignoring the fact that they could cause an accident by blinding preceding or on-coming drivers.

I have often stated to friends that I would love to be a traffic policeman with a hammer. If I were, I would stop these inconsiderate individuals and smash their headlights on the spot. Perhaps they would be more considerate after they were forced to stay where they were until daylight, and then had the cost of repairs. Unfortunately, Justice is not that straightforward.

Anyway, on to France! In general I find the French are much more considerate than the majority of European countries. They will move over if you wish to overtake, however they still have their ‘middle laners’. They do have one throw-back to the sixties that they just don’t seem able to forget.

It was taught many years ago, that if you wished to overtake you put on your indicator and left it on until the maneuver was completed. If they were overtaking a string of cars or trucks this meant a long time. Today however, we have three and four lane motorways for which this system is not suited. If someone pulls out into the second lane to overtake, you do not know if they are also going to cross into the third or fourth lane also. A bit dodgy if you ask me.

Paris is of course a rule unto itself. They are plain crazy in Paris and if you look around you, nearly all the cars have dents and scratches like nobodies business. It’s scary!!! If you come out alive and unharmed you can thank your lucky stars once again.

As previously stated, Belgium is a pleasure to drive at night, if you don’t mind the noisy, bumpy ride, but here we have the same ‘Middle of the Road’ mentality as in Spain. As previously stated, most are women, and I wonder if they feel safer in the middle lane, or is it a statement thing. You know! Here I am and this lane is mine, do you hear, MINE!

Belgian men can be aggressive if you flash them because they are hogging the overtaking lane too much. Though in Spain the men are much much worse if you criticise their driving in any way.

Overall, the Dutch have improved from some ten years ago. Once they got into the outside lane on a motorway you could not shift them for love or money! Now, thankfully they have learned, somewhat, that the outside lane is intended for overtaking only. Most, but not all will move over when you approach from behind with the intention of overtaking.

In general, I think I can say with the utmost authority, that driving standards across Europe have fallen significantly over that past 40 years or so. Cars have become faster and more efficient at speed, but with that must surely come an increased awareness of the responsibility of the driver to control that machine in such a way as to be safe on the road, and considerate to other road users. Unfortunately both are sadly lacking.

Driving schools all over Europe have but one aim; To get you through the driving test as quickly as possible with the minimum of investment. Gone are the days when people were taught how to drive, and were taught all the rules for safe and courteous driving. No amount of investment will change today’s mentality.

So what do we do? I really can’t answer that question. All I can say is try your best to be safe and courteous and hope you don’t get mown down by some idiot.

May your wheels continue turning.

Roy

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