Looking north down US Route 127
Some state governments are wrestling with the problem of getting people from city to city quickly by land. California has an expensive and controversial high-speed rail scheme that would link San Francisco and Los Angeles. A private group is pushing a similar line that would link Houston and Dallas. Of course, Elon Musk has proposed the high tech hyperloop. However, according to a Friday story in ZDNet, Honda is proposing an alternative that involves high-speed dedicated lanes with driverless cars that are linked to each other to control traffic flows and prevent collisions.
Here’s how it would work.
“’[Hyperloop is] a pretty big idea. But here’s one that I think is even better because it’s centered on the human desire for personal mobility,’ said Frank Paluch, president of research and development for Honda Americas, at the closing keynote of SAE. ‘How about a dedicated lane on the I-5 for highly automated, connected vehicles, using swarm technology to travel at speeds upwards of 300kph [180mph]. LA to San Fran in less than two hours. No drive to the train station, and no constraints on when you can come or when you go.’”
Honda even has a car that it thinks might work on the high speed, automatic lane. It’s “the FCV, a sedan with an electric engine that’s powered by hydrogen fuel cells. It has a range of 300 miles and will be released in 2016 in Japan and in LA. Its precursor, the experimental FCX, is currently available in LA as a lease-only model that includes the vehicle, fuel, maintenance, and insurance for $600/month.”
The experience of taking that high speed, automatic lane would be almost like a conventional car trip. The difference is that one would switch from manual control to automatic driving the moment one enters the lane. Then the driver can lean back, relax, and do whatever while the lane’s network does the driving. Once the car leaves the lane at the destination, the driver takes back manual control and drives to his or her destination.
The idea is less developed than the hyperloop. A myriad of questions arises that not only concern engineering, but the cost of construction and cost of use. The lane would likely be a toll lane that a driver would pay to use. Can it be made cheaper than other modes of transportation? That and other questions have to be answered before the idea can even advance to concept, not to mention reality.