Murder machines: why cars will kill 30,000 Americans this year

Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly says, "We just published a piece about how streets came to be the exclusive domain of automobiles (spoiler alert: they didn't start out that way). Among other sources, we interviewed Peter Norton, author of Fighting Traffic, and Ben Fried, the New York editor of Streetsblog."

Read the rest

Tom Vanderbilt: the counterintuitive science of traffic

If I had a chauffeur, I'd want it to be Tom Vanderbilt. I have no idea if Tom is a good driver, but he has a wealth of compelling, curious, and provocative knowledge about the psychology and science of our lives behind the wheel. He's the author of the bestselling book Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (And What It Says About Us) that has enlightened everyone from transportation policy groups to road safety consortiums to those of us who just insist that no matter what lane we're in, the other one is moving faster. Tom gave a fantastic talk at Boing Boing: Ingenuity, our theatrical experience last month in San Francisco, where he imparted wisdom on late merging, the demographics of honking, and highway hypnosis.

Boing Boing: Ingenuity in partnership with Ford C-Max.

EU investigates equipping cars with automatic speed limiters

Mr. Hagar, in Europe you can and will drive 55.

In a move to reduce the 30,000 annual traffic fatalities in Europe each year, the European Union is planning to equip cars with technology that senses the speed limit and applies the brakes if the car is speeding.

The scheme would work either using satellites, which would communicate limits to cars automatically, or using cameras to read road signs. Drivers can be given a warning of the speed limit, or their speed could be controlled automatically under the new measures.

EU plans to fit all cars with speed limiters (Thanks, Matthew!)

Update: From the Blogs of the European Commission: “The Commission has supported past research into ISA. There is a current stakeholder consultation and study focusing on speed limiting technology already fitted to HGVs and buses. One aspect of that is whether ISA could in the long-term be an alternative. And a second consultation on in-vehicle safety systems in general. Taking account of the consultation results, the Commission will publish in the autumn a document by its technical experts which will no doubt refer to ISA among many other things. That is all. (NB such 'staff working documents' are not adopted by the Commission at political level and have no legal status.) Nothing more is expected in the foreseeable future."

HOWTO singlehandedly erase traffic jams by driving slow


Update: I've updated the link to Bill Beaty's original article -- the one I linked to originally was a scumbag plagiarist.

Jeffrey sez, "A fascinating article about what causes traffic jams, and how to drive differently to help ease 'stop and go' traffic. It is interesting to see how basic human instincts (or maybe just the way we have been taught how to drive) can turn a crowded road into one that is jammed with stop and go traffic. It is probable that self-driving cars will eliminate many of these issues before many humans have time to learn these techniques. However, it is very encouraging to hear the author's anecdote about how he was able to singlehandedly erase a traffic jam in his own lane:"

On a day when I immediately started hitting the usual "waves" of stopped traffic, I decided to drive slow. Rather than repeatedly rushing ahead with everyone else, only to come to a halt, I decided to try to drive at the average speed of the traffic. I let a huge gap open up ahead of me, and timed things so I was arriving at the next "stop-wave" just as the last red brake lights were turning off ahead of me. It certainly felt weird to have that huge empty space ahead of me, but I knew I was driving no slower than anyone else. Sometimes I hit it just right and never had to touch the brakes at all, but sometimes I was too fast or slow. There were many "waves" that evening, and this gave me many opportunities to improve my skill as I drove along.

I kept this up for maybe half an hour while approaching the city. Finally I happened to glance at my rearview mirror. There was an interesting sight.

It was dusk, the headlights were on, and I was going down a long hill to the bridges. I had a view of miles of highway behind me. In the other lane I could see maybe five of the traffic stop-waves. But in the lane behind me, for miles, TOTALLY UNIFORM DISTRIBUTION. I hadn't realized it, but by driving at the average speed, my car had been "eating" traffic waves. Everyone ahead of me was caught in the stop/go cycle, while everyone behind me was forced to go at a nice smooth 35MPH or so.

TRAFFIC WAVES (Thanks, Bill!)

Cardboard cops to deter traffic violators

TraffffffffI've heard anecdotal evidence that lifesize cardboard cut-outs of police officers in shops can deter shoplifting. Now Bangalore police are using the same method to deter traffic violators. "It is not a gimmick. Wherever we have put up these cut outs, violations have come down," Traffic Commissioner MA Saleem told the BBC.

Science of L.A.'s 'Carmageddon' proves (shock!) that cars cause much of LA's air pollution

Suzanne Paulson, UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, saw "Carmageddon" as an opportunity to make use of a "natural experiment." She and a colleague "measured pollutants in the air during the LA freeway shutdown last year, and have now released their findings.

Air quality near the normally busy highway improved by 83 percent that day last July, relative to comparable weekends. Elsewhere in West Los Angeles, the improvement was equally dramatic. Air quality improved by 75 percent on that side of the city and in Santa Monica, and by 25 percent throughout the entire region, as a measure of the drop in ultrafine particulate matter associated with tailpipe emissions.

"We saw what we expected: you take motor vehicles away, the air gets really, really clean," Paulson says, "which tells us that most of the pollution is from motor vehicles from one type or another in this area."

More: L.A.'s 'Carmageddon' Produced Dramatic, Instantaneous Air Quality Improvements (The Atlantic).

Another "Carmaggedon" just took place in LA. Wonder if there will be more science to come from this edition.

(Image: Dallas Traffic 10/19/11 1227pm, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from nffcnnr's photostream)

23.5-tonne Marmite traffic-jam

Traffic in Yorkshire is snarled this morning after an overturned lorry dumped 23.5 tonnes of yeast extract on the motorway.