Ok, I'll admit this is a crazy idea, not likely to ever see the light of day, but it's worth throwing out as an exercise. It is often said we should keep the speed limit low to encourage good fuel economy.
What if there were no speed limit, but instead a "fuel limit." For example, 2 gallons of gas per hour.
I'm not the only one to have thought of this, but as yet no real work has been done. How about a hybrid car powered with a Stirling Engine? (Not spelled Sterling, btw.)
The Stirling is more efficient than the internal combustion or diesel engine, and it's also a lot quieter. Sounds great, but it's not good for cars because it can't rev up quickly and it takes about 5 minutes to get the engine hot enough to run well. We want our cars to start the minute we put the key in.
Commodities traders buy gasoline futures all the time. Could they work at the gas pump? Imagine a big gas chain willing to sell you future gas today. You would buy a coupon, good for 15 galons of gas in August, the month you plan a big family trip in the minivan. You're afraid the high prices in the future might hurt the trip, you can be protected against them. The futures might even cost less than gas at the pump today due to widespread belief that supplies will open up. In times of heavy fear they would cost less.
I've often wondered why, when you have an electric train line that has a terminus as the main destination, you can't give everybody an express train.
To do this, imagine for the commute home, a 5 car train starts downtown. It leaves and expresses a few stops down the line. (A local car leaves after to handle the stops close to downtown.) When it gets to point one, with sufficient warnings and many safeguards, it decouples, and the rear car brakes to stop at the first of its stations.
Carpool lanes exist to reward those who work to reduce congestion and pollution with a faster trip. I know that's good every time I look out my window and can't see the hills for the haze. Some areas allow zero-emission-vehicles (electric cars etc.) to also use carpool lanes with a solo driver, reducing pollution if not congestion.
Proposals have been made to also allow solo drivers of hybrid cars into the lanes, as well as solo drivers who simply pay a fat fee for a permit. Let me propose an interesting variant of these payment ideas.
Pardon the local entry boring to those outside this valley.
San Jose is seeking something "distinctive" for the airport remodel. Let me suggest something I have not seen anywhere else, something that would say something about the area.
Reading this NYT article about radar to cover car blind spots, which describes a system that will trigger lights in the rearview-mirror when cars are in the blind-spot, reminded me of an old idea I had some time ago I called "Eyes in the back of your head."
The idea would be to wear a special collar while driving. This collar would contain small electrodes that could lightly stimulate the skin on the back of the neck. Perhaps just one row, but ideally a small 2-D image should be possible.
This would be connected to a camera, radar or sonar system pointing back from the vehicle. It would map where other vehicles are, and turn that into an image on the back of the neck.
Thus, as a car came up behind you and passed you, it would feel like something brushing the back of your neck on one side.
I was inspired to this by reading about a system for the blind that mapped a video camera image onto a 2000 pixel electrode map on the stomach. It was found that over time, the nerves would retrain and a sort of limited vision could develop. Might this have application in driving, or perhaps combat?
Another transportion item, because last night the train I was on hit a car stalled on the tracks (the occupant is OK, though was hit by the car when the train bashed it.)
Since trains do hit things, why aren't solutions to this more common in our data network world? A laser detector over the grade crossings would be simple enough.
I'm going to write more in the future about how transportation is not making using technology. Let me start with streetcars and the bus.
People use transit a lot more if it is able to beat the car, or at least keep pace with it. Thus we spend a lot of money on dedicated right-of-way for subways, trains and streetcars.
But this is really inefficient. The dedicated right-of-way sits empty 95% of the time. It does nothing so that a train can pass over it every 10 minutes (or more.)