Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Car signal halyards

Instantly display your status to other drivers
  (+16, -4)(+16, -4)
(+16, -4)
  [vote for,

Historically, ships uses signal hoists of flags to signal to one another.

Why not add this feature to cars ? Each car would carry a set of coloured/patterned flags in a pouch. There would be a small mast, or a strengthened radio antenna from which the flags can be flown.

Signals could include:

"I am new to the area and looking for an address. I may stop or turn with little warning"

"I am not in a hurry today. Please overtake when safe to do so".

"My vehicle has a mechanical problem. Please overtake when safe to do so"

"On Tow"

"Children in the car. Driving may be erratic"

"I am local to this area"

"I have recently encountered poor driving conditions. You are standing in to danger. Beware."

Preferably, there would be a means of changing the flags without stopping, perhaps via the sunroof.

Flag recognition would be a compulsory part of the driving test.

8th of 7, Jul 11 2002

International Marine Signal Flags http://www.anbg.gov...s/signal-flags.html
A reference to the more famous set of flags. [Aristotle, Jul 11 2002, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       "I know where I'm going, stay the hell out of my way" would be mine
thumbwax, Jul 11 2002

       //"Children in the car. Driving may be erratic"//   

       This is the way I always interpreted the 'child on board' stickers in the back window anyway.
st3f, Jul 11 2002

       To circumvent the requirement to recognize flag signals, perhaps the appropriate message could be spelled out on a LED display on the back of the car, making this idea virtually indistinguishable from the many similar ones.
angel, Jul 11 2002

       angel: The LED display has the following problems: 1. It is visible only from the rear, 2. it requires power 3. It has poor visibility in direct sunlight, 4. Idiots would inevitably misuse it to display offensive messages. Flags are simple and require no power. A small light, similar to the ones used to illuminate license plates, would render them visible at night. The code would not permit users to display offensive messages, only simple informative ones.
8th of 7, Jul 11 2002

       1. Flags are only visible from a direction perpendicular to the prevailing wind, whereas a LED display could be repeated on all sides.
2. Cars have power available anyway; if they don't you have a bigger problem than flags would solve.
3. High-brightness LEDs are available.
4. Messages could be selectable from a list.
5.A light suitable for illuminating flags would show white to the rear which is illegal in UK.
angel, Jul 11 2002

       I want a ‘slipprey when wet’ sign for my car.
reensure, Jul 11 2002

       "England expects every driver to have passed his test".
Aristotle, Jul 11 2002


       1. True. But having LED displays all round the car would reduce visibility and amenity, unless they were fixed on a roofrack, which would be detrimental to the aerodynamics. We envisage a single, small, low-drag mast. In fact, the "dead" angle throught which a flag cannot be seen and identified is only about 10 degrees each side of perpendicular. The fluttering of a small pennant-type flag in a fast airstream will render its distinctive colour/shape pattern visible from about a 340 degree viewing angle. Cornering and other normal road movements of vehicles will render the flags visible for an acceptable proprotion of the time.   

       This system can be retrofitted to (and subsequently removed from ) existing vehicles at low cost, in a short space of time, and without the need for any permanent or damaging modfications. A "gutter clip" mount, as used for radio antennae, could be employed, for instance.   

       2. An array of high brightness LEDs draws a substantial current and would rapidly drain the car's battery if left on while the car was parked. A flag indication will operate without any power.   

       3. True. But a dynamic LED based display represents a substantially greater cost than a pole, a bracket and afew small fabric flags.   

       4. That would be acceptable.   

       5. The flags would be illuminated from below by a shielded light source, which would not be directly visible from the rear. A white light to the rear is permitted, but only for the purposes of reversing.
8th of 7, Jul 11 2002

       A stationary vehicle, while having limited power to operate LEDs, would also, on windless days, have no motion to flutter a flag.
In response to (5): The exception for reversing being noted, 'shining a light off something white' is regarded as 'showing a white light' for the purposes of C&U regulations.
angel, Jul 11 2002

       angel: Hmm. We can envisage a thin wire stiffener in the top of the pennant, somewhat like a burgee on a yacht. The flag will hang from it when the vehicle is stationary, but will still flutter in the turbulent flow when the vehicle is in motion. When stationary, this will tend to increase the "dead" angle by stiffening the flag.   

       The "white light" problem could be avoided by not using white in any of the flags, just the primary colours. Since sodium-yellow light distorts colour perception, a pure white light soure would still be needed, but this would not be directly visible from the rear of the vehicle. Unique combinations of shapes, contrasting colours and symbols would as far as possible reduce ambiguities, i.e. Square flag, Red ground, Black cross = "I have not taken my medication today and am feeling a bit strange", Triangular flag, Yellow ground, Blue circle = "My vehicle has a problem. Please overtake when safe to do so."
8th of 7, Jul 11 2002

       To address the pranking issue, if I were more of a pain in the ass than I already am, I would raise some much more personalized flags:   

       1. A pair of boxer shorts
2. One flag decorated in universally recognized obscene drawing
3. Tie-dye hippie flag
4. Pirate flag. Avast ye! Tow the line, mayte, them's pirates in the other lane!

       While I applaud this attempt at improving the communications between vehicles, it seems like it might be difficult to get the hang of using while driving.
polartomato, Jul 11 2002

       polartomato: The problem of performing an online status update remains to be addressed. We're open to suggestions. Nautical signal flags use a loop-and-toggle system which is hard to work one-handed.   

       We think you would need a separate flagstaff for your personal insignia - otherwise the police would flag you down .... (Wah .. Wah... Wah .. Waaaaaaaaaaa)   

       Morris minors had "trafficators" - little arms that stuck out from the door pillars as turn signals. It's just a thought.
8th of 7, Jul 11 2002

       //Flags are only visible from a direction perpendicular to the prevailing wind//   

       To improve the visibility of the flag, how about instead of a cloth flag, you use a hard plastic flag, acutally use 4 and make a rotating square on top of the pole. That way no matter how the wind blows or which direction another vehicle comes from, the flag will show.   

       As for the white light in the rear, which would be a problem, how about backlighting the flags, rather like the front of modern soda machines? True, this would use more power than the origingal idea, but it could be set to go off when you turn the car off, like the radio and the blower.
Aurora, Jul 11 2002

       "I am NOT looking for hookers...I'm just trying to find a cheap place to stay..."
Guncrazy, Jul 11 2002

       "My other car is a galleon."
Aristotle, Jul 12 2002

       "Trolls sighted on the starboard bow. Form a line astern of the Flag. Engage the Enemy more closely. Fire as guns bear".
8th of 7, Jul 12 2002

       //"Children in the car. Driving may be erratic" This is the way I always interpreted the 'child on board' stickers in the back window anyway.//   

       Personally I treat all drivers with "Driving may be erratic" anyway. But then again, that's just the police's driving training for you...
PeterSilly, Jul 12 2002

       Considering that we don't even have traffic flags right now, and it would not be a necessity to see them at all times, I don't think the ten degrees of invisbility issue is very relevant. They would serve their purpose well enough, I suppose.   

       I like this idea.
Pseudonym #3, Jul 12 2002

       Combine the LED idea with the flag idea so that there is an icon bar above the bumper, electronically displaying flaglike icons for the conditions of the car rather than a tangible fabric flag.   

       Or create a tent-fabric portal in the door of the car that extends out like a sleeve so that you can operate the flag strings- but that would be mighty difficult to do while driving.
polartomato, Jul 12 2002

       Wait- what does the flag say? It's flapping in the wind..and..I.. can't...quite..make..it..out..CRASH!!   

       Maybe I should have been watching the road instead, huh?
Mr Burns, Jul 12 2002

       Could I get a pirate flag?
beauxeault, Jul 12 2002

       I want mine on a tall mast with a crow's nest so I can check out the traffic situation ahead.
FarmerJohn, Jul 12 2002

       FarmerJohn: You want a lighting rod on that tall mast, maybe ?
8th of 7, Jul 12 2002

       I can just imagine two sets of flags getting entangled, and as the cars go separate directions the flag poles make their desparate bid for freedom and go sailing off into the distance.
kaz, Jul 13 2002

       The flagpoles could pick up power from overhead lines like a tram-car, thus easing city traffic pollution.
drew, Jul 14 2002

       Would the flag on a Hearse be at halfmast?
rapid transit, May 19 2003

       I actually kind of like this idea. Although I don't think so much of a fuss needs to be made about visibility. A simple lighting system would be nice, for darkness I suppose, but that's all that really needs to be done. As it stands now, you have NO warning about any of the drivers around you. Any possible "Heads Up" you can give would be fantastic. However, if you made them big and flashy, they could prove to be a distraction, and cause more accidents than they prevent.
silv, Jun 02 2004

       Why was this idea not brought to my attention sooner?
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 09 2016

       Because you were in hiding, trying - again - to avoid a furiously angry mob of Buddhist monks, armed with agricultural tools and flaming torches, and bent on hanging you from a banyan tree by your own intestines.   

       What on earth did you say to the Dalai Lama this time ? Only your family could possibly induce a pacifist nonviolent philosophical movement to adopt the concept of the Fatwah overnight by unanimous approbation. You didn't even get as far as the soup, never mind the coffee and biscuits.
8th of 7, Aug 09 2016

       More stiffener in the top of the pennant, I say! Lets see what you've got in that pouch! Get erratic! Get erratic!
bungston, Aug 09 2016

       Too few of the great naval traditions have been carried over into the automotive age. A hard, dry, salted bun for this one [+]
BunsenHoneydew, Aug 09 2016

       //What on earth did you say to the Dalai Lama this time ?// This whole entire thing has been blown up out of all proportion by the lower strata of the popular press. I bet he meets lots of people every day who are a bit fuzzy about the whole "lama/llama" distinction.   

       Anyway, in the end he saw the funny side of it, and we got on like a house on fire. Turns out he hates the Welsh as well, and loves mohitos, so we hit it off just fine. His wife's pretty hot, by the way.
MaxwellBuchanan, Aug 09 2016

       // lama/llama //   

       Oh no ... please, say you didn't tell him Sturton's "Yakety-yak" joke ... It's not exactly suitable even for an audience of drunken dockers, so its inappropriateness for a diplomatic reception need hardly be pointed out.
8th of 7, Aug 09 2016


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