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Monday, November 9, 2009

Off the table

Don't worry, Portlanders. As much as the thrill of control over you appeals to them, city leaders will never push you into this -- it involves cars.

Comments (12)

I could see them putting a version of this in place, but only one that is programmed to route the vehicles away from downtown.

I would do this in a heartbeat on a trip to Seattle or Eugene on I-5.

Well, you gotta trust the driver of the lead vehicle--hopefully that person is not texting or updating Facebook.

Years ago, Norm Winninstad had an intriguing idea of actually using real trains to transport cars. You drive your car onto a flatbed rail car, anchor it and go have a cup of coffee or something between Portland and Seattle--like you would on a ferry boat. Don't know about all the logistics of it, but I'm sure Winninstad had it figured out. Never did hear the downside to the idea, but obviously it never got much traction.

Yes, cbb, an alternative to the single-vehicle challenge of I-5, with its torrential rain last Saturday, would have been welcome. And yet, perhaps with this arrangement there would be no exit.

Would rest stops be programmed? Would road trains be segregated by age and gender? Nothing in a complex culture is not complex.

What happens if one of the cars in the "train" has a problem? Watch NASCAR sometime to see what happens when the car in the middle of a pack blows a tire.

"The lead vehicle would be handled by a professional driver who would monitor the status of the road train"

I'm not sure I'd feel comfortale handing over control of my car and life to one of these "professional" drivers - wouldn't these just be semi-truck drivers who've taken an additional test?

How many of you commenting actually read the article?

It seems obvious to me that if your car has a problem, that you could simply leave the "platoon" by signalling to the lead driver, who probably would have caught your problem before you do.

Considering the sensors and electronic systems available in cars today:

Tire pressure monitoring
Cruise control
Automatic braking assist
Electric power steering
Throttle by wire
front and rear radar/distance sensors
Vehicle stability
Infrared headlamps
engine and transmission monitoring
automatic parking

the cars today are able to drive themselves and able to respond to or effectively deal with many common issues.

Given how poorly many people drive these days, because the cars practically drive themselves and they are too insular to what is occurring around you for many to understand what is happening around them before they plug their brains into their phones, food, drinks, sex games, whatever.

As a person who recently participated in his first 24-hour road race at PIR and has had more than a few laps around race tracks, taken the ProDrive skidcar school several times and has taken an active rl in learning how to control a vehicle in nearly any condition, I personally applaud this solution for the common person. I say this because few if any people take the time to actually learn to drive, they only learn enough to pass the much too easy test the government requires them to take (and some don't even bother with the license at all)

As to the NASCAR reference, well yeah it gets ugly when one car bumps into another at 200mph or if a car has a flat tire at that speed. The difference is that in the situation presented by the article, all of the cars would be controlled by a leader, going nowhere near as fast. Versus a half-dozen cars controlled by a bunch of people trying to get around each other as quickly and as safely as possible. If such a thing did happen, the damage would be minimal since train would likely come to a safe halt, or the broken car would be "kicked" out and stopped remotely.

Any one of us can create a car train whenever we want merely by traveling at the speed limit. Official sanction or space age control mechanisms aren't needed.

Our "Het dude, your fly is down and your pants are unbuttoned" Mayor may be interested in this.

They want us out of our private vehicles, gas or electric.

We will go where the train takes us.

"Years ago, Norm Winninstad had an intriguing idea of actually using real trains to transport cars. You drive your car onto a flatbed rail car, anchor it and go have a cup of coffee or something between Portland and Seattle"

Not an unusual or unique idea - Alaska did it for decades through the Whittier Tunnel, until they "paved" the floor of the tunnel so cars could just drive through it (trains still have right-of-way, however). And auto-trains exist in Europe and between Washington, D.C. and Orlando, Florida as an Amtrak operation.

The problem is that Portland-Seattle is too long for Alaska's version (where drivers simply drove up onto the flatcars, and sat in the car), and it's too short for Amtrak's version (it takes several hours to load and unload the cars, rendering it useless for PDX-SEA when you could have arrived before you leave.)

I could see such a auto-train running between Portland and Los Angeles, however.

This topic reminds me of days gone by spent in SW Australia. Besides Perth, the Burgs were small and few and far between. Those mad Ausies thought nothing of a 14 hour weekend jaunt through the countryside. When the weather in Margaret River turned inclement, say around 60 degrees then we headed north to Carnarvon http://visitwa.com.au/australias-north-west-region/23-carnarvon.html to bask some more. Those trips were fraught with truck trains. On four lane highways it was great with all the trucks in one big pack, but unfortunately those highways narrowed to two lanes. Good luck passing that scrum - mate.

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