I'm continually amazed that people are just allowed to get
into 2-ton metal boxes and hare around the road network.
You'd think it would lead to a litany of tire-screeching near
misses and fiery deaths. And you'd be right.
There's a spectrum of how good or bad the situation is,
on the quality of the pool of drivers. In
the UK, during work hours on a week day the standard is
very good. Everyone is trained to the high standard of the
UK driving test(s), lots of professional drivers and people
who are experienced* because they're driving for work-
related reasons. This deteriorates significantly on Sundays
when Mr & Mrs Retiree drive at a constant 43mph on a tour
of local garden supply retailers.
In the US the situation is much worse, my driving test was
a brief run through the most basic car controls, a reverse
parallel park into a space the size of Switzerland** then a
drive around, literally, one block. 2 right turns, 3 left.
Between that and a lack of practice, I'm a much worse
driver in the US than UK. But everyone else is terrible
So, let's up driver training a little. Aviation uses several
grades of simulator. Starting with simple static cockpit
layouts, where pilots can run through procedures,
memorizing switch locations etc. to a full motion "box"
where a flight deck is replicated. Complete with computer
generated window imagery and crucially, full hydraulic
control of 3 dimensional movement. This works because
without visual cues, it's difficult to tell the difference
between 0.5G forward acceleration and being tilted back
So lets build full motion car simulators. These should be
much cheaper to build than aircraft sims for the following
reasons. 1. Cockpit equipment is staggeringly expensive.
Instead, we use a real car; $10k and call it a day. 2.
Movement systems are expensive. Less so nowadays. I
imagine a wheel-hub mounted frame with some actuators
to jiggle the suspension a little to simulate road
conditions. Mount this on the flat upper surface of a
hemisphere in a pit lined with rollers and balance the
whole set-up. We should only need 10-20 degrees to
simulate the forces of normal driving. 3. Generating
imagery is expensive. Not so much any more. We need one
big front screen, two side screens and a rear-view mirror
screen. This is in high-end gaming PC range. ~$3-5k?
There. Now drivers can train on their own. More interesting
scenarios can be simulated, such as the back end stepping
out in the wet, planing on standing water, sliding on ice,
understeer & oversteer. This should address some of the
glaring deficiencies of conventional driver training: that it's
not safe to give actual experience of real road dangers
without generating real danger.
*and current on type as the aviation world would put it.
** bump the curb, fine, roll up the curb, also fine as long as
it drops back down.
***Driving stress isn't the same everywhere, drive north,
once past Boston things start calming down. By the time
you're in Maine, it's all Volvo wagons politely waving you
through. Similarly, drive south, past D.C, things start
improving. By Georgia, honking is nearly extinct. I think
they just start a rumor about you or something.