If I had my way… there would be no traffic.
Traffic is ridiculous. I don’t mean traffic here in Los Angeles. I mean traffic in general. I mean, every morning and every evening, the same number of the same people go to the same place at the same time and get stuck on the same roads at the same intersections for the same amount of time. Seriously? Urban planners of the world, unite… and kill yourselves.
I simply can not wrap my head around it. I mean, I got stuck in 45 minutes of rush-hour traffic last week… in Bozeman, MT… in the middle of the day. How does that happen? I can’t answer that question… because I’m too hung up on rational thought.
Now, here’s the thing. It seems to me that there exists a number of applicable technologies which could serve to alleviate this issue. So why don’t we put our best team of monkeys on it and figure out how to use them?
Everyday before I leave work, I check sigalert.com, and it tells me quite accurately how the 405 is right at that moment. I can even go to Google Maps, which is the best (double true), and overlay that traffic data onto the map. However, as terrific as that is, Google Maps won’t integrate that information into their directions. So if there is a 16-car pileup on the 10 (and I know Google knows this because I’m seeing it on their map), Google Maps will still happily direct me onto the 10 because of a failure to include the information it already has into the directions it’s giving me. If that’s hard to follow, it’s because it makes no sense. I can not find any map service that integrates current and available traffic data into its directions. So let’s all huddle up and do that.
Once we’ve been awarded the Nobel Prize, let’s keep going… In addition to telling the service where I’m going, why can’t I also tell it when I’m going? I mean, the optimal route at 5:30 AM is not the same as the optimal route at 5:30 PM. I know this. You know this. Why doesn’t the map service know this? So let’s start storing this traffic data and get predictive with our directions. Using average traffic levels at any given time of day over the previous six months, the service should be able to direct me away from congestion that exists at the same place at the same time every single day. I don’t think that’s asking too much… unless my suspicions are correct and they really do want me to suffer.
Next, let’s get really crazy. With the abundance of GPS-enabled devices and navigation systems, why can’t we take this traffic data one step further and start collecting it on a car-by-car, second-by-second basis? As things stand, if 5,000 people plug Dodgers Stadium into their navigation systems at the same time, they are all going to be taken along the same route and all stuck in the same traffic created by 5,000 people trying to go the same way to the same place at the same time. However, if the system were operating in real time, it might direct 2,500 drivers one way and 2,500 drivers another… or even better, five sets of 1,000 drivers five different ways. I know we can do this. I mean, this is the same country that implemented universal health care… oh, wait. Forget I said that.
Anyway, imagine a world where each car was linked to a central system coordinating their routes, detecting accidents, directing drivers away from congestion, and saving everyone time, money and frustration. Will Smith would be evading rogue robots, and Doc Brown would be flying overhead in his Delorean. Bruce Willis would wave as he passes by in his taxi, and Tom Cruise might even jump onto the hood of your car if you’re lucky. That’s what things would be like… if I had my way.