RE: lawyers vs. AirCars

Billy Brown (
Sun, 22 Aug 1999 22:38:47 -0500

Spike Jones wrote:
> Nowthen, at the risk of making this post a scattershot mess,
> consider current transportation technologies that are not being
> implemented because of liability uncertainties, such as caravanning.
> The engineering infrastructure has quietly become available over
> the past couple decades, with the introduction of cruise control
> and those wonderfully competent antilock brakes, for a car to
> be computer controlled to follow the car ahead at a speed of
> 130 kph at a distance of 1 meter. A string of cars of indefinite
> length can caravan along at highway speeds in the far left lane,
> *tremendously reducing* the overcrowdedness of these wonderful
> interstate highways, now stretched to the limit. This technology
> has already been demonstrated, but as we know, it is not being
> used for no one will insure a caravan.

Caravaning has more problems than just overblown liability issues. Humans maintain larger following distances for very good reasons, after all. If a collision occurs anywhere in that caravan (and it will, due to mechanical failure, software glitches, weather, tampering by idiot drivers, and who knows what else) the result is a major disaster. At high speeds your stopping distance is so large that dozens of cars will invevitably end up plowing into the mess at high speeds, resulting in multiple fatalities and dozens of injuries. Then the cops and wreckers get to spend hours prying apart a huge mass of twisted metal while the reporters sit around and take pictures. Even if the overal fatality rate is lower than for human-piloted, people aren't going to go for it. The results of the occasional accident are just too spectacular.

You also have the problem that people do not want to give up the feeling of personal control over their own fate, no matter how illusory it may be. They only do it on airplanes because there is no other way, and even then thay hate it. Automated cars would be much worse - everyone knows perfectly well that they can drive a car, and they like the feeling that they can take action if something goes wrong. Consequently, participation in a voluntary caravaning system would be just about zero no matter what claims you make about safety and convenience.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I