Cruise Control
and computerized electronic driving

W   
hile driving back from Norman, Oklahoma this weekend, I was grateful for my cruise control such as it is. Though inadequate, it certainly gave my foot/leg a rest.

The chief problem with cruise control is its unresponsiveness. I should be able to use it to drive the car with my finger. You can do this after a fashion but the "rate" of acceleration is out of your control. I want complete control at my fingertips.

This requires a thumb or finger roller on the steering wheel.

Like this:

cruise.gif - 4kb

At right is a hydraulic schematic for the roller's operation. In practice, this would be done electronically. When you push on the roller one way, it causes the fluid to pressurize on one side. A sensor would detect this and that would indicate the rate of acceleration you wanted. When you push the roller the other way, the opposite side would indicate the rate of deceleration you wanted. Hence, if you wanted to "floor it", you'd have to push harder than if you wanted to accelerate gradually. Conversely, if you wanted to stop fast, you'd push harder the other way and the brakes would engage or ... if a gradual slowing was in order, you'd push less.

When you reached the desired velocity, you'd release the roller and the pressure on either side would equalize and that speed would be maintained. Thus, acceleration - deceleration - velocity are all controlled easily with one finger. Of course, this would not replace the foot pedals ... at least not till the mechanism proved to be at least as reliable as foot pedals.

Controlling Traffic Electronically w/ collective cruise control

There is some interest in putting detectors on cars to "see" markers on highways so that they could just be put on automatic and you could sit back an read the paper while a computer took you to your destination. This isn't going to happen anytime soon ... obviously. But there is something that could be done in the near future.

I had a pickup truck following me close behind for several miles in the dead of night with no one around. I assume he was using me as a mental "tow truck". That is, he wasn't quite awake yet and decided to just keep a certain distance behind and let me do the driving decisions for both of us.

Suppose you could do this to every car electronically. Each vehicle would detect the others around them by means of a signal given off by a computerized mechanism. The signal could give the other computers information about speed and distance. One could then "lock on" to the car in front and just leave the driving decisions to the collective judgment of the "herd", i.e. the computer would average out what everyone was doing and create (by its programming) a smooth flow of traffic governed by the average driver in that area. So, if you were skunk drunk, you could have a much greater chance of getting home alive than if you "go it alone".

Presumably, the computer system would "take over" your gas pedal, brakes and steering ... until ... and unless ... you took command by just pressing the brake or the gas pedal or moving the steering wheel (as in a lane change). Then, to get back on the system, you'd have to push a "collective cruise control" button and "leave the driving to us".

If no one is around you're just on your own as before.


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