An update for traffic thugs – NRC

Asia's Tech News Daily

An update for traffic thugs – NRC

Fifty is the new thirty, they say. And then of course ‘they’ are the people of fifty. In built-up areas it is the other way around: there thirty is the new fifty. Many Dutch municipalities are lowering their speed limits. Like Utrecht and The Hague, Amsterdam is adapting; in the capital is 500 kilometers of 50 km roads. On more than half of those roads you will soon be allowed to go 30 km per hour.

As a result, there will be 22 to 31 percent less serious injuries and fatalities, calculated SWOV, the scientific institute that studies road safety. There are also side effects: more travel time, more cut-through traffic and more emissions from fuel cars.

The trouble with rules is that you have to enforce them. You can’t do it with just a ’30 sign’. In my cozy suburb, Utrecht Leidsche Rijn, traffic buffoons don’t easily let themselves be forced under thirty. Because of all the speed bumps and other obstacles, the city here feels like a bumpy road. Still, motorists continue to blast from threshold to threshold, occasionally grabbing a bicycle or scooter.

Because my angry face alone doesn’t help, the municipality put up extra angry faces last month: dynamic speed displays on lampposts. you see a smiley if you stay under thirty, a angry face– emoji when you drive faster.

Such speedometers “hold up a mirror to you” and “provoke people to be responsive”, according to a 2013 study. The sensors also provide traffic data: on the basis of this, the police can decide to check and issue fines.

A car bubble is even more dangerous than an internet bubble. Behind the wheel, with the radio and the heated seats on, your own truth applies and the outside world seems miles away. So if motorists don’t want to see the speed limit, the car just has to lend a hand.

From 2022, the EU will only approve new cars that have Intelligent Speed ​​Assistance (ISA) on board. This speed assistant comes in addition to measures such as emergency braking assistance and drowsiness meters that check whether you are paying attention behind the wheel.

Speed ​​detection is already in many cars – with cameras that read traffic signs. If you combine this with automatic cruise control, you can avoid fines and accidents.

This technique is not perfect. Cameras sometimes suffer from poor visibility, road signs can be damaged or manipulated. For example, American hackers tricked the cameras of a Tesla with a piece of tape on a road sign. The car thought that the speed limit was not 35 but 85 miles per hour and sped away.

Map suppliers such as Here and TomTom also supply data to ISA systems. That makes speed recognition more robust, but not yet error-free. Therefore, the presence of real road signs takes precedence. So you have to keep an eye out.

The most drastic speed assistant, recommended by traffic experts, brakes the engine as soon as you reach the maximum speed. You can ignore such an assistant and give it more throttle yourself. According to the European Transport Safety Council, such a system would save 20 percent from fatal road casualties.

The auto industry has lobbied heavily to install a slacker speed assistant, which only beeps for five seconds. That system is irritating and is therefore switched off more quickly. You don’t even have to be a traffic asshole for that.

Car manufacturers are obliged to report anonymized usage data. If in two years it turns out that drivers turn off their smart speed assistants en masse, an update of the rules will follow. So left or right, driving with a (speed) sign in front of your head will become normal. Just as normal as cars that are overtaken in built-up areas by souped-up electric bicycles. But about that next time.

Marc Hijink writes about technology here. Twitter: @MarcHijinkNRC

An update for traffic thugs – NRC
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