Biomimicry | bīōˈmiməkrē — the imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.
If you’re driving a newish car you have no doubt noticed a few newish bells, whistles, and cup-holders. Many of these bells and whistles (but not cup-holders) increase the safety and connectivity of your vehicle. Your car likely knows where it is in the Milky Way Galaxy (even if you do not). And as data speeds continue to increase (5G is coming to an access point near you!), the ability of your car to know, not only it’s own speed and direction, but also the speed and direction of every vehicle within 1/4 mile, in real time, well, you can imagine what that allows…
But, if you cannot imagine what that allows, it means your car is imitating nature — most likely resembling a school of fish (granted, a very large steel fish with people and french fries inside). This “imitation” is called biomimicry — i.e. when man imitates nature in order to solve complex human problems.
If you have ever watched a school of fish, you will note they travel fast and close. For example, I have yet to observe two fish colliding and catching on fire. Similarly, when cars equipped with high-speed data streams become “aware” of each other, they too travel fast and close (and safe). Akin to a school of fish, each vehicle has a “zone of repulsion” and instantly adjusts to avoid collision and maintain overall direction and coordination with neighboring fish (cars).
The implications are astounding. Traffic signals and lane lines become unnecessary. A 2-lane roadway now accommodates 3-lanes, maybe 4. The distance between cars diminishes to just a couple of feet instead of the 2-second rule (or the 4-second rule if you’re a teenager). The direction of the lane becomes “reversible” depending on time of day (or when the football game lets out).
And perhaps the best news is that roadway construction costs (and associated construction delays) diminishes dramatically. The need for additional lanes, traffic signals, roundabouts (well, maybe not roundabouts), dwindles as technology increases and existing roadways accommodate greater traffic volumes than currently possible.
Cars will travel like schools of fish. And cars (fish) that communicate with each other stop colliding with each other. Human errors now replaced with computer errors… wait, is that a good thing? Let’s hope so. It’s coming. It’s inevitable.
Chet Skwarcan, Traffic Engineer and Futurist, can be reached at Chet@TrafficEngineering.com.