Have you noticed that parking spaces have gotten smaller? Some are even marked “compact” to discourage people from parking their big SUV or extended cab pickup truck in those spots. It’s all about getting more cars into the same parking lot; getting more customers through the stores; more revenue for the businesses.
Even the lanes in the roads sometimes get smaller. Many times, in construction zones, the lanes are intentionally made smaller to provide more room for the construction activities. This weekend we went over some cement bridges along old Highway 30 that were built in the depression era of the 1930’s. That was before the big, wide cars of the 50’s and 60’s. I was a passenger in a big Escalade worrying that the mirror would get taken off by the decorative bridge posts. I read an article earlier this week about a machine that allows express lanes to be easily moved to improve traffic flow during morning and evening rush hours. The big thing about the machine was getting it and the barriers to be less obtrusive and take 6-12 inches less away from the lanes.
And, finally, let’s talk about the need for infrastructure and autonomous vehicles. Remember the video of Jean-Claude Van Damme that Volvo did showing how super stable their steering system is—going backwards pushing a trailer! Well, if such vehicles, with or without a driver, can stay in their lanes so accurately, then we can skinny down the lanes.
If vehicles don’t weave back and forth, we could take a few inches away from the right and left shoulders and create a dedicated lane for autonomous trucks. Very little investment in infrastructure would be needed. Just the next time you paint lines on the road, carve out a little from the shoulders for the automated trucks; take an inch or two away from the car lanes. Now you’ve got a dedicated lane for trucks. I’ll bet at least a few fleets would find a payback for investing in the extra cost of the truck to get through crowded cities with a dedicated lane. They may even have an incentive to pay the government a toll for the privilege.