* One thing's for sure: our system of roads, speeds, the mutual infringement of pedestrians, pedal power and other vehicular traffic --perhaps separated by white lines --is nuts. It's my expectation that overlaying our crumbling transportation infrastructure with "self driving" cars will prove to be a Donnybrook.
From watching a Ford car commercial today (5/22/2017) I gather that
we already have self parking cars. We apprehensively wait upon news of
the first grisly accident, a drawn out court battle over who was responsible,
finding the (deep pockets) manufacturer at fault, a bigga recall, and handing
the reigns back to the driver.
* The single most effective factor in traffic safety is speed. How very cheap and simple: reduce speed.
Since the kinetic energy of a collision is proportional to the square of miles per hour, an accident at 30mph is 4 times worse than at 15mph. At 45mph, it's (3 squared =) 9 times worse.
* Should you be enamored of "extreme sports", the "need for speed", the thrill of risk taking --then this page is probably not for you. It's a gentler crowd that I encourage to seek out and build alternative ("intentional", "gated"/CC&Rs) communities and lifestyles. I quite discourage --vain attempts to impose the rather pastoral ideas which follow upon thrill/stimulous seeking mainstream America.)
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Let's start with some very "counter-culture" notions. "Travel", change, "growth" and progress -- are not inherently "good things". This is a hard argument to make, since we live in a culture/society that's so desperately in need of fundamental changes. Glimmerings of understanding are among us --recalling the familiar: "happiness is in your own back yard", along with old fashioned admonitions against "change for change sake". (Yes: we all feel needs, both practical and recreational, to venture some distance away from home. We're talking matters of degree and range --of course.)
* Perhaps the first argument against drastically reducing our speed limits is that we don't have the highway capacity. However, being mindful of those public service announcements that we should count a second's worth of travel between vehicles (or a car length between for each 10mph --about the same), a capacity of something like 86% as many cars should pass a given point along a highway at (say) 30mph as at 60mph. (The math here is for 16 foot long cars.)
* Dissent #2 (and maybe #1) is that it would take twice as long to get "there". However: that there "there" --the destination, is pretty arbitrary, is it not? So just why did you decide to build and drive to your cabin on "the lake" for the weekend --instead of somewhere (say) nearer to Canada? Answer: you picked a nice destination that was do-able --at 60/whatever MPH. But then: why not 120mph? With more investment in highways, vehicles and fuel, is that so unreasonable? Would Canada be reachable from your home then?
General Motors' futurecasters at the 1939 World's Fair thought that super highways and 100mph would be routine by the 1960s.
Obviously, if it had been a "given" that the highway speed
limit is (say) 35mph^, then you'd have simply built
a cabin on a lake that was much nearer to home --and maybe commuted to
work for a company at about half the distance you now travel, plus:
you'd stand a much better chance of driving to those destinations and
living to a ripe old age (with lower life and car insurance premiums along
* There are, of course, natural/physical speed limits --like the sound barrier :-) We can run and easily bicycle at 15mph, maybe sprint closer to 20mph. If this was the limit for most urban driving, bicycles could keep up, pedestrians, stray children and pets would stand a better chance of survival.
* At "parkway speed" (35mph^ and below), air flow over a car ceases to be so turbulent. Open your windows. Listen to nature's birds and crickets. (Hey: try that sometime. It's very pleasant on a warm summer evening.)
Again: at 35mph and below, wild creatures stand a fair chance of getting out of the way, so road kill goes way down --and ain't that nice.
* Not only could engines be significantly smaller at modest speeds, the whole drive train, wheels, tires, and chassis weight gets sharply reduced, so cars become more affordable to build and purchase.
^** Surprise(!) --it's already been
done! In May of 1942 a national speed limit of 35 MPH was decreed
in support of the war effort to conserve tire rubber and gasoline. The
State of Utah kept track of the results: auto accidents decreased by 35%,
traffic deaths were cut in half, and this was despite a 5% increase of
vehicles on their roads and highways over the same period of time (1941
** And I've somehow gotten this far along without mentioning fuel/battery economy! Fuel consumption goes down with speed, and the more so if a car is designed for the targeted speed range, since it also goes down with the reduced vehicle weight (a factor which dominates at speeds below 50 MPH).
More "car talk" *here*.