Friday, June 25, 2021

Driving 2.0

I drive a lot - about 2K miles/month around town. Fortunately I have a hybrid that gets 40+ miles/gallon. I laugh at gas stations and no longer hunt for gas at a few cents cheaper/gallon.

Since the pandemic has abated, I've noticed more cars on the road. With road construction obstructing nearly every highway, street and alley in Indy, the driving experience has degraded precipitously. Luckily, I drive a nice car, have books/music/NPR to listen to am usually not in a hurry.

That said, the proportion of poor drivers seems to have increased. Maybe the folks who srayed home during the pandemic are emerging like Cicada's with only one thing on their mind - and it's not good driving.

I've come up with a three element model for thinking about driving skills. I'd like to teach Driver's Ed 2.0. You  may think these skill may be useless as the age of autonomous vehicles is upon us! But trust me, idiots will be driving for a very long time and we should endeavor to help them improve themselves . . . if not for their own sake, then for the sake of fellow drives (our children!) who must share the road with them.

Here are the Driving 2.0 skills we should teach:

  • Planning
  • Networking
  • Teaming

Planning seems fundmental - but in this model it covers a spectrum of planning. From planning for a trip on one end of the time scale; but also planning your moves in traffic and being ready for problems that develop in real-time which can be anticipated or not. 

You may browse your mapping app to see where traffic is congested and plan to take another route. You may plan to get gas. You may plan, like UPS, to almost never make left turns!

Taking a moment to plan has many benefits. It settles your mind and focuses your attention. You can use the moment to remind yourself that you don't want to die today. (Or get injured or hurt someone/something else.) Maybe it's planning for car maintenance? Revisiting your goals for not taking/making calls or texts while driving.

Networking may not seem obvious but actually, you do it all the time when you drive; maybe just not so well. A highway through the lens of an autonomous vehicle's artificial eyes is a constantly evolving network of moving vehicles, obstacles, roadways, signals and targets. (Having no experience writing software for autonomous vehicles I'm speculating about this.) Humans should be doing the same - and have the potential to do it even better on a good day and in some circumstances - they just have to pay attention.

My concept of networking includes signaling your intention by communicating your moves to other drivers, observing and anticipating their moves and integrating that data that into your moves. You should constantly be taking in data about driving conditions, your vehicle's performance, your own behaviors, idiots, rage-rovers, slowpokes and impared drivers. Looked at from this perspective your driving 'program' looks a lot more like a node in a network constantly communicating with other nodes. Cool! (And which requires millisecond to millisecond attention, really.)

Teaming is the pinacle of a well run network. Our social goal for driving should be teamwork. By communicating what you intend to do and observing what the other guy is doing (or needs) to do you become a member of a team all trying to get somewhere safetly an quickly. Giving up a bit of the 'me first' attitude and realizing that teamwork helps everyone may seem like a fantasy. But it is a standard that could be taught in Driving 2.0 classes. At least it could become a goal. 

If the seed is planted early - a part of the education of every driver (even including questions on the test!) - then we may someday be able to drive with autonomous vehicles and be proud of our results!