Solar Panel Innovations

We live in a fast moving world.  Fast both in development and motion.  And traditionally we have powered all this with fossil fuels.  We have long known that this energy supply will come to a natural end and now global warming and climate changes have accelerated to a point where we must act much more quickly to avoid further, costly environmental damage.

A sea change in finding alternative solutions for this has been the rapid recent development of electric power.  Although some of this is generated by traditional fossil fuel sources a growing amount is being powered by cleaner and greener options such as wind, wave and solar power.

For transportation to embrace this power source there is a reliance on batteries, from early developments in heavy lead acid technology, through modern Lithium Ion versions which provide greater storage and even new ideas still on drawing boards and in the test tubes of many industrial chemical institutions.

Presently getting the electric power to the transport medium is a bit of a faff.  High power electrical charging networks have only recently been planned and built also recharging batteries takes either massive amounts of time or massive amounts of power along with super cooled refrigeration mechanics.  This is because fast charging generates huge amounts of heat as a by-product which can seriously damage or impair the equipment of the charging process.

For this reason a good compromise is solar powered battery recharge.  Often readily available this is generally a fairly low powered constant supply, providing the daylight is present.

However, providing sufficient electric output for a high powered transport device such as a car is currently almost impossible to achieve other than for extremely lightweight prototype concepts.  This is why no attempt is made to cover the roofs or panels of fully electric vehicles with solar panels and why all these vehicles are creeping quietly around the country looking for a fixed high amp electric charge point which they can sidle up to.

And providing sufficient panels for more energy intensive vehicles such as trucks, lorries, boats or even massive ships is even less likely.

Unless you are an ideas man like me and can see a way to beat this problem.  And I present here a number of innovative concepts that may assist.

Solar Powered Cars

Let’s start with cars.

A couple of extremely light weight, prototype, hyper mileage, single seat, pram wheeled, ultra low drag vehicles with a streamlined plastic covering have been produced.  These concepts were built to prove solar power concepts or challenge for self invented high mileage travel records, usually carried out in perfect solar producing conditions.

However, as discussed above our standard, fully equipped five seater electric cars need too much power storage and are used far too often in too many differing conditions to benefit from a charge source via just a few square metres of solar panel on their roof, even if you did add in the bonnet and side doors.  There is just no more space to mount the panels.

This is why they are charged from a static point, either a mains public charger, from a parked charging space at home or something similar at a destination.  This system works fine, providing the owner remembers to plug the car in to the mains and isn’t going on an extended journey.  If such an undertaking is attempted a time consuming electrical fuel stop or two would be needed to be factored in.

So, the problem is the square meterage available of solar panels.  So why not just tow a solar panel array?  The increased surface area may just keep a car going for the number of miles needed for a longer trip.  Imagine a trailer being towed behind the car, stretching back as far as an articulated lorry, quietly sucking up solar rays and sending the charge back into the cars battery via an attached coiled wire.

This is obviously all well and good on main, open, multiple lane roads and shouldn’t be too much of an issue but that’s not the only place cars need to go.  On smaller, twistier, single carriageway roads, local suburban areas and cities a long trailer may be unruly and difficult to handle by the average driver so further innovation is required.

In these instances it is clear that the trailed array of panels needs to be shortened.  So why not have an unfurling array?  A twin axle trolley which automatically stretches out and also retracts to suit the road conditions.

The arrays will either have to be flexible enough to retract into a large roll or perhaps be designed to stack over and under each other in order to suit the trailer wheelbase length.

Maybe the ultimate version of this system would be a roll out trailer actually incorporated into the boot or within the rear bumper area of the car, which automatically deploys, dropping out and extending dependant on road suitability.  Neat and tucked away for parking in congested cities and adjustable enough to suck up some sunshine dependant on the situation.  With the advantage that the most effect will occur on longer runs on main roads, which is the weak point of electric propulsion systems.

Is it possible that this idea is so innovative and indeed needed that current, existing cars may be modified to remove the oily, noisy fossil fuel sucking engine with an electric powered transmission system and fitted out with an inboard, deployable towed power station?

Another associated thought may be that a future roadside recovery vehicle would be equipped with a trailer load of deployable, pre-charged, arrays ready to hitch to cars that have inadvertently run out of sun juice and are stranded on the edge of the carriageways?  ‘Eh, eh’, I hear you mutter.

But enough of cars for now, what about other means of vehicular transport?

Vans, Trucks and Lorries

A similar system could be adopted for vans and trucks.  But with these larger vehicles there is additional unused roof space for fixed panels and more space for incorporating a slide out additional array.  Already many vans and lorries incorporate rear mounted equipment such as fold out load lifting platforms and even especially designed slimline forklift trucks.

For larger lorries already incorporating articulated designs an additional fixed or roll out trailer would be too unwieldy however their roof space is even more generous in the first place so should be utilised.

And in the case of the many articulated lorries which are just independent truck and trailer models with the cab owner hitching up the trailers of others the two parties would need to work to a commonly agreed system to ensure compatibility.  Which makes me think that maybe the universal container design needs remodelling to incorporate solar arrays?  And to avoid having to bolt on ill fitting solar panels to the corrugated roofs why not ‘paint’ a solar panel direct onto the corrugations?  Surely this must be possible using laser etching?

But what if we consider other means of transportation?

Rail

The idea of roof mounted solar panels on trains is not required on much of the already electrified network.  However the rail network system certainly lends itself to miles of fixed solar panel arrays alongside or between the rails for use of the rail network or to feed other non-rail infrastructure, homes and businesses nearby.

Notwithstanding the above, much of the network is not yet electrified and to convert it may be very expensive and require a lot of disruptive construction often in remote and environmentally sensitive areas.  In these cases adopting roof panel mounted arrays on the long trains could be a good option and the towing of multiple, long, linked additional arrays is certainly a feasible thought.

And why isn’t wind power harnessed as the trains pass by?  If you are unfortunate enough to be close to a passing high speed train you would feel the rush of wind created.  Put up vertical fans near to the edge of the train which would spin up when a train passes and convert this mechanical energy back into electrical energy to help power the network points, lights and other infrastructure.

Canal Boats

Canals have some similarity to the rail networks.  Some of the bends may be a little tighter but it is still essentially a system that suits elongated design.  And much like the rail system many miles of it are very open to daylight.

Already many canal boats, usually those that house live aboard residents, take advantage of a few solar panels along with the necessary electronic systems and batteries to power their onboard electrical needs.  However, their roofs are often too congested with guy ropes, poles, brightly decorated watering cans and other useless ephemera to be fully equipped with major arrays.

This is because few canal craft rely on full electric propulsion.  Most instead rely on fossil fuel powered engines.  But if one considers that these engines are usually very low powered they could simply be replaced with a similar power output electric system.

It is doubtful that with current technology that a single boat, even one that extends a full 72 feet in length, would be able to site enough panels on its own roof, even if we utilise my earlier idea of spray painted arrays.  So instead, why not tow an additional hull packed with a full set of solar arrays?

I would add a couple of other extras onto this big fuel cell to make the system more easily manageable down the cut.  I would add a small seating area at the rear and a deployable electric outboard type motor, powered from the array, to make the craft individually controllable when needed.  This would be required when the towed power source is detached from the main boat in order to pass through the standard locks on the canal system.

Finally why not incorporate onboard the hull array a mechanical or electrically automated pivoting system to steer the individual array panels towards any light source to increase efficiency of the system?

The ideas are just flowing out now so let’s scale this up.

River Boats and Ocean Yachts

Already there are fully electric powered catamarans on the market taking full advantage of their generous roof and deck spaces being covered with solar panels which feed battery systems and electric propulsion.  At present their power is limited compared to other more powerful, faster boats and yachts but they can apparently sail continuously in the right conditions at a modest cruising speed.

The trouble with non catamaran design is the lack of roof and deck space.  Plus many yachts are designed with open flybridge cockpits and many, many more are already built already incorporating big, heavy, fuel sucking engines.  So I need to find a solution for these craft as well.

The natural energy source can be the same as the model suggested for the canal boats.  Towed solar panel arrays, powering an onboard battery storage, electric propulsion motor system.

Yes, I can hear you already picking up on a couple of key points.  Calm down I have already thought of these and have them covered.

Firstly, yes some modifications have to be made to the original watercraft.  The current diesel or petrol engines will need replacing with electric units.  But these will be much more compact and whilst being fitted likely to incorporate updated innovation such as steerable pod propulsion to increase low speed manoeuvring around the harbours and marinas.

The balance of the boat design caused by the reduction in engine weight from big heavy fossil fuel engines and gearboxes with huge fuel storage tanks to more compact electrical motors can be offset by judicious positioning of the necessary battery and charging equipment.

Alternatively just build new boats with design incorporated, electric motors and battery storage systems.

But, you exclaim, what about having to tow a massive solar panel array craft behind us whilst trying to pose around the Mediterranean beaches and tearing about in pointless but addictive high speed turns?  My answer is don’t.  The power source doesn’t have to go everywhere with you.  Just tow it to a convenient bit of empty sea, anchor it from tidal movements, disconnect and go off to have some fun whilst it sucks up some sun, only to return at the end of play to recharge from your own self sufficient ‘fuel’ station.

And if you wish to harness even more power why not incorporate some wave energy technology into your floating power station as well?  I’ll explain how when we really scale this up.

Ocean Going Ships

You may think that this article has developed from my ideas on road vehicles, adapting some of these basic ideas onto small water craft and now I’m going all in in an attempt to exaggerate and scale up a basic concept.  In truth it was the energy efficient powering of ocean going liners that made me come up with these ideas in the first place.

I have been on a few cruise trips, including ocean crossings on some magnificent vessels and enjoy it too much to want to give it up for the sake of the environment.  But I have a conscience and want my actions to impact the world in which I live in the most sustainable way.  I heard that cruise ships have an enormously disproportionate effect on natural resources and they are getting ever more popular so I wanted to come up with a solution to save the industry.  I know, it’s all me, me, me.

But how do you electrify a huge cruise ship without if being tethered to a large cable attached to shore?  The answer lies in utilising wave and solar power whilst out and about.  And much like smaller boats and craft the onboard surface area is not sufficient to meet the needs of the many decks of energy hungry occupants below.

I therefore envisaged an idea that the vast surface area of a massive solar array could be towed behind to power the ship, all fitted out with steerable panels to zero in on the source of light power.  Overall size and space taken up need not be a consideration due to the environment in which these vessels operate.  Why not tow massive panel sets over a mile in length?  If size requires it to be unhooked and anchored temporarily whilst the ship puts into ports then shore power can be used whilst the ship is there.

Yes, the towed power source will need some battery storage for harvesting power whilst unhooked, it would be best served with independent motors for manoeuvring and probably incorporate a small manned onboard control tower [and lifeboat for emergency], particularly if it is a mile long!

Finally add in some wave energy harnessing technology as well into this power station, possibly by articulation of sections of the craft and hey, I may just have had an idea that could help save the industry and our planet.  And more importantly, my future cruise desires.

And finally, as a call back to the section above entitled Vans, Trucks and Lorries, remember my idea that all standardised containers incorporate solar panels.  These adapted containers can all be linked whilst transported on massive container ships to provide more self sufficiency and even more planet saving.  I’m starting to wonder whether I could actually be saving the equivalent of two planets by now.

You’re welcome.

Oh, and as for powering all the oil tankers chugging around the world.  No need, they will all become redundant.

Summary Of Ideas

Wow, what a lot to think about.  Just in case you have been overwhelmed by the number of innovative ideas in this one single article let me summarise them below.

  • Towed solar panel arrays for vehicles
  • Adjustable length towed arrays – Retractable roll out and stackable
  • Adjustable towed arrays stored within the rear of vehicles
  • Roadside recovery vehicles carrying spare, pre-charged roll out towed arrays
  • Redesign of the universal container system to incorporate solar panels, adaptable enough to be joined up to help power a container ship
  • Spray painted on solar panel arrays with laser etching
  • Fixed solar panels within or without the parallel rail lines to power electrified trains and infrastructure on electrified and non electrified routes
  • Harnessing wind created by high speed passing trains to power the network infrastructure
  • Floating, towed solar panel arrays for canal craft, boats and even big ships
  • Floating, towed solar panel arrays incorporating wave energy harnessing technology

Author: Vince Poynter

From the Ideas section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk web site Version 5.284 dated 15 Jan 2020 [First Publication]

These are conceptual ideas, untested and made without engineering calculations.  For instance I have no idea how many more miles a towed array would make to an electrically propelled vehicle or craft.  I do however surmise that it would be more with than without

I have not overly emphasised the additional components of solar panel and battery systems.  I do understand that there would be other components such as solar charge controllers, inverters, wiring and isolation to consider.  I also understand that all these things would add both weight and cost and be needed to be incorporated in either the vehicle or towed array or both.  An unaccompanied, towed array left to soak up some sun whilst drifting quietly at sea would do no good to its owner when it returns if an onboard battery etc is not included

At the time of publication I had not fact checked whether any of the ideas listed above have already been produced, developed, patented or are in the process of development.  All I claim is that I have not come across them naturally.  If you know of such innovation already out there let me know and I’ll amend and credit accordingly

I place these concepts into the wild as I feel it wrong to keep them to myself and I also hope to inspire others and generate interesting discussion

As ever, my many ideas are never commercially exploited nor formally patented by me but I would like to see them used.  I presume if you are the sort who takes up the ideas of others and passes them off as your own you would not be the sort who credits the original inventor or chucks them a bit of financial thanks.  If however you are not such a dreadful monster my name is shown above.  Find me, thank me, credit me, reward me.  You’ll feel a much better human

These innovations have not been fully developed, tested, proven via prototype, safety tested, manufactured or fully engineered and are just conceptual ideas therefore the author cannot accept any liability for loss or damage in the testing, use or manufacture of any of these conceptual ideas

The Hillman Avenger Story

How do you define your first car?

The question can actually be read in many different ways.  Let me explain.

Take a look at the photograph below.  Here you will see a very young me sat in black and white next to my mother on our front door step.  In my hands you will see a small toy.  A fifties style car the make and model of which I cannot recall, nor determine from the picture.

Vince with Lilian on doorsetep
The earliest photograph of me holding a car so it must be mine

I don’t remember that car but by the look of my tight grip it looks very much like mine.  Is this my first car?

The first toy car that I definitely remember owning and which became my favourite one was a red Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Corgi toy.  So was this my first car?

But toy cars don’t count as a first car, do they?  One needs to be able to get in and drive.  Well, I could do that in the go-kart that my brother and I were given.  I may only have been around four or five years old but it was me doing the driving, providing all the self-propelled forward motion, steering and braking.  In doing so I learnt width judgement, the consequences of speed, under and over steer and when ignoring all the above what happens when the corner is tighter than the grip.  So surely my first car.

Then motorised transport came into my life.  You can read about the origins of this journey in my Bikes section because like many others in those days I started on two wheels.  On the road since my sixteenth birthday on a borrowed moped, then at seventeen my own trail bike, followed by a small road bike then mid sized tourer.  You will also have noted that I finished this section of my life with a crash, a girlfriend, thoughts of future passengers and a story involving a bicycle and a Hillman Avenger.  My first actual car.  Or was it?

It was certainly not the first I drove as I had been driving for about three years by then.  I started as soon as I was legally allowed at seventeen.

The first I got behind the wheel of was a Vauxhall Viva.  Not the latest, rebadged 2016 Chevrolet Spark, but the much earlier HC version that Vauxhall produced during the 1970s.  It was red and new and light to drive through its enormous steering wheel.  I had already garnered a good sense of road craft from my year on mopeds and a trip or three on my Yamaha Trail bike.  And crucially I couldn’t fall off it.  Driving a car should have been so easy.

The trouble was that it was owned by a gross, un-sympathetic, interfering Driving Instructor and I couldn’t afford many or even regular lessons.

I hated every moment of the driving not because of the car but because of the instructor.  He would arrive late, squish down in the passenger seat with his plump thighs overhanging both sides of the wide seat usually with his used handkerchief dripping out of his side pocket hanging over the handbrake.

He would then fuss and panic about someone driving his car and constantly grab at the steering wheel and gearstick then pump his feet up and down on his new toy, his dual pedal set up.

I already knew how to meander through traffic from my year and some of biking, I was aware of my surroundings, familiar with junctions and traffic signs.  I just needed some practice at the bits of a car that were different such as clutch changing using my foot and steering with a big circular wheel.  But I was not free to plot my own course without unnecessary intervention, or pull to a gentle stop without my passenger stabbing the brakes.

I was just seventeen and didn’t have the life experiences or confidence to change instructors or the funds to do back to back lessons and as a result every two months it felt like another brand new start.  Just let go of the controls you gross, pig-headed bastard.

Overall I had just six lessons, one every two months or so during the year before I was advised by Mr. Slob to take my driving test and inevitably failed it.  I can’t remember exactly why but do recall it was only a couple of minor issues.  The main thing I needed was regular, unhindered practice.

I was also under pressure from work.  My job required me to visit various construction sites around the local counties and my white collar image was being smeared by the arrival in motorbike clothing and helmet.  Plus I was unable to transport the required oddments and official documents that my role dictated.  The boss wanted me driving and I had colleagues’ cars awaiting my piloting.

I finally got my chance when my mother persuaded my dad that I could be added onto her car’s insurance.  With the assistance of my older brother in the passenger seat and a couple of L plates I could get all the practice I needed.

It was a first generation white Triumph Herald 1200 with bright red seats and I took it out as often as money, my brother and time allowed.  I even took my friends, Jeff and Spike, in the back a couple of times.  Although regretted it when they gesticulated at a passing police car which got me a lecture about how I, as the driver, should be in control of my unruly passengers.

But it did the job, I got the regular practice needed and re-hired the Viva to pass my car driving test.

Not that I swapped my exciting twin wheeled vehicles for a car immediately.  Why should I?  I already had 120mph travel potential and a 0-60mph time of around three and a half seconds.  Cars were dull, slow things that in my budget were rusty and unreliable with excessive insurance premiums.  And besides that I had started driving anyway.  Virtually every day.  In nearly new cars, fuelled by a large on-site petrol tank.

I worked in a small to mid sized building services company.  Our task was to design and build the intricate pipe work and associated plant that courses its way around commercial and industrial buildings and my role was to manage or assist in the supervision of these projects.  The company needed me to deliver tender offers, visit the sites for meetings and help with previously forgotten small deliveries.  And so leant me the company cars for this purpose.

I particularly took advantage of tearing around the place in John’s blue facelift model Vauxhall Chevette 1.3 L as he was generous enough to let me have the keys, thanks John.  Malcolm was less forthcoming with his near identical green model.  In fact I was more often offered the mid-size executive 1.6 Vauxhall Cavalier Mark 1 LS of Senior Engineer Jeffery.  And once had to deliver our MD Peter’s BMW 525 E12 post facelift model to Salisbury.  I saw 125mph on the speedo.  Err, it was just under the 130mph on the dial, officer.

However time was moving on, I had done all that I needed to at that moment on two wheels and as explained in my Honda CX500 article the market for potential new female friends would be increased exponentially by having my own four wheels so I advertised my bike for sale and included a thought that I would consider a swap for a car.

I had a reply.  Some chap had a car and wanted a bike.  We agreed that any difference in value would be included in cash and he duly arrived in his Hillman.  I can’t recall who got some dosh with their vehicle but he took away my shiny ‘as new apart from the frame reshaped’ bike and left me the keys to his slightly tatty Avenger.

Hillman Avenger front
My Hillman Avenger in all its glory when first purchased by me

I had received not only the keys but also the car.  A Hillman Avenger GLS with vinyl roof.  This pleased me immensely as for a start it exceeded the company cars I had use of in virtually every aspect.  It was a GLS model, not a mere L, or LS and as anyone around this time knew this was important.

It had four headlamps, velour seats, Rostyle wheels and it’s black vinyl roof.  Plus an enormous 1.6 engine as big as Jeff’s one.

It also had some extras not normally on these models.  A bit of surface rust and a distinct lean towards the front right hand side.  But let’s not forget, it was a GLS.

Driving the car felt good.  It’s soft, probably knackered, suspension wallowed it around to suit it’s big comfortable presence.  There was a dashboard full of dials and accomodation to easily fit five adults.  The multi headlamp set up lit up the darkest of night lanes and the powerful engine provided prompt passage to wherever you chose to travel.  Everything worked and I was a happy owner that summer.

I loved having the car and was the first of my gang to have one.  Yes, Spike had occasional use of a huge four wheel barge that had Vauxhall VX 4/90 written on the back.  It was an FD series and actually his Dad’s car.  All the others were still tootling around on just two wheels.  I became the go to guy for transporting numbers greater than two.

In fairness the others didn’t have cars because they were still at school, or sixth form college as they put it.  I was the only working one with a wage, although a fairly meagre one as I was doing an office based apprenticeship.  But at least I could run the thing.

Jeff, Vince, Theresa & Jackie
Jeff [the ‘student’, not the Senior Engineer version], Vince, Theresa and Jackie, pictured at another time completely.  The Pot Noodle is irrelevant to the story.  But in the interests of complete disclosure was a Chicken and Mushroom version

The most memorable of these journeys happened at the beginning of August that year.  My good mate Jeff had been dating Jackie for a few years by now and a suggestion was made that I could get together with Jackie’s friend Theresa.  A plan was hatched for us all to go to the British Biking Grand Prix together, ostensibly to help with the marshalling but mainly to snuggle up in handy pairs in a tiny overnight tent.

Jeff had just been signed up for his Polytechnic, err University, course and was already there sorting out his new accommodation so I was tasked with collecting the girls, passing by the big school to pick up Jeff and then for all four of us to travel towards Silverstone.

The problem was that it was fresher’s week so Jeff was therefore torn between his long planned trip to the races and getting in on the first social events with all his new poly buddies.  He felt he had no choice but to choose his new social contacts meaning I had to take a very tearful girlfriend and her sympathetic bestie onwards to the racing circuit where the only racing certainty was that the threesome in the tent would end up as a sad, sob fest.

Our weekend duties were also squarely curtailed.  Without Jeff we could hardly form a reliable marshalling team for a major Grands Prix event so we were asked to ‘assist around the pits area’.  A euphemism for don’t get in anyone’s way.  We didn’t have much to do and sat around watching things happen.  At one point I had popped to the loo and Barry Sheene was told off by the girls for ‘sitting in Vince’s seat’.  In the Yamaha pit area.

But I should be reporting on the car.  Well it was near perfect.  Plenty big enough for three adults and all the camping equipment that we could muster and very comfortable on the long trip.  The only issue being the windcreen wipers that decided to stop working just as the rain started to.  Oh, and the fact that Jackie threw open the passenger door too hard when the car was parked facing downhill resulting in a slightly bent front door where it met the hinge and a bit of a gap where it now couldn’t meet the back door.  A judicious slam and a bit of securing rope and it closed providing access wasn’t needed any more on that side of the car.

It wasn’t quite the end of the car.  That would happen later that year as autumn, winter and my circumstances started to take it’s toll.  The ownership coincided with a dramatic time of my life.  I decided I had made an error in joining a company in the construction industry.  I wasn’t planning to stay beyond my apprenticeship so immediately junked the job.  It was the week before news headlines reported the first time unemployment had reached the milestone of one million.  I was out of work, likely to be staying that way, poor and had only just left home to stay in a shared house with some of my old school buddies.

The car was parked, unused, at my parents house and when the tax ran out I popped it up on the front lawn.  Not as dramatic as it might seem at first because the lawn had become a regular spot for many of my brother’s many broken down vehicles.

However, my car wasn’t welcomed.  Possibly in fairness because I wasn’t living there any more.  I was asked to move it.

As usual it fired up first time but then immediatly became sick and started to wet itself all over the floor.  That day I learnt three important things.  Firstly why antifreeze is a critical component in a coolant system.  Secondly that you cannot trust a previous owner to know about the first thing.  And thirdly that if you are oblivious to points one and two the ordinarily very durable metal crankcase can be split in two.

I had no funds to repair the car and had to come up with a solution.  And it looked like I found one in my new friend Stuart.  He offered to take the car off my hands and give me a bicycle.  This pleased me because I had never had a bike, could actually afford to run one and there was more talk of a cash value to make up the difference.  And I desperately needed cash at that point in my life on the simple grounds that I had precisely none of it.

Sadly the deal didn’t go down too well.  Newly discovered ex-friend Stuart arranged to take the car promptly then procrastinated about the bike.  It appeared he didn’t have one to give me, or didn’t want to part with any he did have and spoke about building one for me.  I had previously envisaged a shiny brand new racing bike but was now looking down the barrel of a rusty frame fished from a canal, bent spokes and a soggy seat.  The bike, when it was finally delivered wasn’t that much better.  It was a recycled frame with a lovely hand crafted paint job with a unique paint run effect.  None of the components were of any quality or purchased recently from a store.  And when the cash differential was raised Stuart disappeared and so became someone I never saw again.  Shame really, he seemed like quite a nice guy.

So, in summary I had started with a fairly new motorcycle and ended up with a crappy bicycle.  But in between loads of fond memories of my first car.  Because that was what it was.

And that’s how it should be because, as anyone knows, the first car is the cheapest.  Queue the song Rod.

Author: Vince Poynter

The header photograph shows the author sat on the bonnet of his Hillman Avenger 1.6 GLS, taken by a family member in 1981
The first photograph shows the author aged around three to four sat with his mother, Lilian on their doorstep and must be dated around 1964/5.  The next image shows the front view of the Hillman Avenger, also from 1981.  The final photograph shows the author and his friends Jeff, Theresa and Jackie, also from 1981 but a bit later
This article first appeared on the vinceunlimited web site on 20 September 2019 and can be found at vinceunlimited.co.uk/cars.htm or if you are on a mobile device and want a more suitable reading experience on vinceunlimited.co.uk/carsm.htm

Autonomous Vehicles

Part One – An Introduction

The latest news in driving is that driving is to expire.  For us mortals at least.  Soon the only thing driving our cars will be the cars themselves.  Yes, all over the news we hear of self driving cars.  Just use a common search engine to see who is big in this field and you’ll instantly get the idea.  I suggest the search engine Bing.

Some vehicles already have lane departure systems that bleep at you or shake your steering wheel if you dare to cross the line markings without first advising the car.  Many more have cruise control to avoid us having to make the effort to maintain a speed, sometimes enhanced with additional radar control to keep us from accidentally bumping into the vehicle ahead.  We have self parking systems to get us into a gap and detailed mapping to get us out of holes.  Although to map out all the actual potholes encountered may take another 30 years.

This is all big news and for those that follow my every word across all the social media platforms that I use, yes you two, you will be well aware that I have a great fascination in this sort of technology with the development of autonomous vehicles being of the most interest to me.  In fact I have been picking at this subject for a few years now, as I shall demonstrate.

My first ever public comment on any aspect of autonomous driving was made on the Twitter platform back on 1 June 2014 when I posted the thought ‘Can’t wait for these driverless Google cars.  Will make my border drug running business a lot less risky’.  And if you think I have blown a cover on an illicit controlled substance operation then you haven’t been following my Twitter stream very carefully.

Then, after reading about a potential development on a Honda Accord car that would use ‘radar, cruise control and the ability to follow white line markings whilst steering to effectively allow the car to drive itself’ I posted a blog on my web site on 14 June 2006 entitled ‘According To Me’ [link below].  In this I mused over a potential dispute between various interested parties in the event of a collision of an autonomous vehicle.

I continued within Twitter on 17 June 2014 publishing another tongue-in-cheek tweet writing ‘Love the internet technology on new cars.  Just emailed my brakes.  Now waiting for a reply’ with another post a month later on 17 July 2014 wherein I wryly mused ‘If spell check gets in the way, in the future will Google produce self driving cats?’

By 3 September 2014 I had more to say on related matters in this field which I literally did within my fifth podcast subtitled Lanserguided [link below].  Please feel free to check out the whole aural experience but if you find the idea of my voice droning on then in essence I raised an idea about potential laser projections on the front of cars to map out a stopping distance ahead of a moving vehicle.  Then I considered whether future autonomous cars would actually allow us to get into them or consider driving away completely if sent off to seek a parking space.  I also predicted a simpler future driving test.  Plus I concluded that the take up of autonomous technology would be inevitable.  I did offer a caveat that despite all the promise of automation there will always be human skills needed to maintain and service broken vehicles.

In addition to this early sporadic public commentary on the subject I had many other thoughts on this developing and fascinating technology but the next tranche of public comments came again on Twitter in a series of tweet posts over a year later on 26 October 2015 as follows:

  • If I bought a driverless car and sent it to park while I was at work, what’s to stop it starting it’s own taxi service?
  • Of course the wealthy already have driverless cars.  Or as they call them, chauffeurs
  • Personally I’m waiting for the first fight between driverless cars over a parking spot.  That may sort out the Android vs iOS argument
  • I bought a driverless car last year.  It read roads, maps, the Internet & communicated.  It went straight to the High Court & claimed freedom

Using a different medium, this year I tried some stand up comedy and for one performance I wrote a routine about driverless technology which I performed at The Studio within The Point at Eastleigh, Hampshire on 20 February 2019.  It was a deliberately light hearted slant on the subject but did cover many interesting points within this field.  You can view the performance on YouTube [link below] but I have extracted some of the ideas here for information whilst simultaneously extracting the humour because this is a serious article and nothing even remotely amusing must colour the tone.  Ever.

  • Autonomous cars, driving around with no apparent attention being paid at all.  Is that taxi drivers?
  • How do you operate a driverless car?  If you’re wealthy, use voice commands.  It lets the chauffeur know where you want to go.  For the rest of us you’re no more than a dog.  Open the hatch of your Rover, get in and it takes you to your destination
  • Future driving tests will be so much easier.  “Show me your car.  Get in.  Seatbelt on.  Good, that’s a pass”
  • Cars will be able to communicate to work anything out as a group.  At a traffic light on the illumination of green they all move off at the same time and on red they all stop as one
  • All controlled within parameters of the users choosing a priority mode of travel – Tourist mode, in a hurry or even declaration of an emergency.  Enhanced by the cars choosing priority based on types of occupant
  • On the open road cars will be able to go really quickly with future motorways packed tight full of high speed cars, all talking to each other
  • Are our current cars going to be scrapped being no longer useful?
  • Are we are going to have to fit our present cars with similar cameras, lasers, radars and sensors similar to those needed for the autonomous ones?
  • What if we have super smart self driving robots that can get into our current cars whilst still quickly communicating with the new tranche of driverless vehicles?  These to connect with all the other cars, fitted with multiple ‘limbs’ for steering, gear changes, handbrake, wipers, lights etc.  Plus being plugged into the car’s on-board computer and fitted with all necessary cameras, lasers, radars and sensors all over to simultaneously look out the front, the back, see the traffic, see every single mirror, check the speed, revs and fuel gauge etc.
  • And my latest public commentary on the subject came on 27 March 2019 when I tweeted ‘If my car camera automatically reads speed limit plates to restrict my progress I may need to tape a photo of a national speed limit sign onto the end of a fishing rod and hang it out the front’

So below I expand on these thoughts posing a number of ideas, questions and ideas on this subject to summarise my position, as follows:

  • Autonomous Vehicles – A Transitional Period
  • Autonomous Vehicles – Issues and Scenarios
  • Autonomous Vehicles – The Future
  • Autonomous Vehicles – Interesting Questions and Considerations

Part Two – A Transitional Period

This section will look at my thoughts on the transitional period between full driver control and full autonomous control.  But before we proceed too far what is meant by an autonomous vehicle?

According to Wikipedia, which is the best source I can suggest if you wish to know more, automated driving systems were first trialled as early as the 1920s.  However autonomous driving as we know it now with greater control by electronic means was worked on in the 1980s but it wasn’t until the 2010s and the development of more powerful and cheaper computer systems that modern recognised autonomy tests were being carried out.

For information the most accepted standard of defining autonomous control is from SAE International, an automotive standardisation body, which defines levels of driving automation as follows:

  • Level 0 – Basic – Automated warnings and momentarily intervention but no sustained vehicle control
  • Level 1 – Hands on – The driver and the automated system share control.  Examples include Cruise Control, Adaptive Course Control, Parking Assistance and Lane Keeping Assist.  The driver must be ready to retake full control at any time
  • Level 2 – Hands off – The automated system takes full control of the vehicle with the driver monitoring and regularly demonstrating this and fully ready to intervene immediately at any time if the automated system fails to respond properly
  • Level 3 – Eyes off – The driver can safely turn their attention away from the automated driving but be prepared to intervene within some limited time
  • Level 4 – Mind off – As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety and could sleep or leave the driving seat.  The vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip if the driver does not retake control
  • Level 5 – Steering wheel optional – No human intervention is required at all

There are problems transitioning between these various levels of autonomy, particularly from levels 2 and 3 and major car manufacturer Ford announced in February 2017 that they gave up attempting to develop a level 3 stage opting for working on the safer level 4.

Well, that’s the vital but soulless bit out of the way so I can now concentrate on my own related thoughts.

This may surprise some but we already have a great deal of autonomy in our cars, in fact every driver who has ever driven has experienced some form of autonomy because some aspects actually go back to the earliest days of motorised transport.

benzpatentmotorwagen
The Benz Patent-Motorwagen, the very first automobile with some partial automation arguably making it technically the first level 1 autonomous vehicle

For example the very first motor car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen required a considerable amount of driver input control.  Speed, braking and steering were all completely operated by the person in the driver’s seat.  However some of the mechanical operation had been automated, for instance the trembler-coil ignition system.  This was technically an automated device to avoid the driver having to manually open and close an ignition switch for each stroke of the engine.

If you feel that I am stretching a definition of autonomy then where do you put your line?  On the subject of ignition again is it an autonomous function for a car to adjust advance and retard on a car without electronic ignition?  Cars used to have advance and retard for their ignition to be manually selected by the driver dependant on the incline and thus load on the engine.  Now it’s the car that works all this out and only a retard would dismiss this advance.  This function used to be manually operated and is now an automated function, with a great deal further development in the electronic ignition systems of modern vehicles.

Perhaps your ‘line’ is drawn at automated gearboxes.  These are fairly usual nowadays particularly as manufacturers have improved the efficiency of auto gearboxes.  I ask, why choose the manual option if not for cost?  Nowadays I’d much rather drive virtually any auto than a fiddly manual because I just can’t be bothered with all that awkward left leg clutch balancing stuff, particularly in our congested, traffic jammed streets.  And if I really want to drop down a gear for added oomph, or preselect a cog for better downhill control I can always flip the flappy paddle.

Now gearboxes have gone beyond just selecting gears based on engine pre-selected power [revs] and speed.  The Volkswagon Group DSG type gearboxes are designed to pre-select gears based on assumed future driver requirement and Rolls-Royce provide a gearbox in their latest Phantom VIII model which means it can preselect a gear based on GPS receiver and terrain information drawn from a map system.

And even if you don’t accept these gearbox functions as autonomous features then surely many will have driven a car with cruise control fitted, which is a defined level 1 stage of autonomy.  And some may even have had a go at successfully operating it.

I personally have experience of driving vehicles to at least level 2 autonomy which are now often fitted with technology to level 3 but restricted in use due to legislation.  This level is not uncommon on modern vehicles with adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, automated lane changing and automatic braking.  Although I accept at present these systems are often unreliable in some circumstances, such as when the road lines fade away or within the confines of supermarket car parks.

I have no experience of driving to level 4 known as ‘Mind Off’, but I reckon many have.  Usually just before they crash!

So, as you can see we are already accepting the partial automation of our driving.  The transitional period is already here with us.

So how will we actually ‘drive’ a true self-driving car?  What will be the process?

I have already suggested that operating a level 5 autonomous car would be so simple that a future driving test would be almost completely pointless.  However, we would need to show some control, after all the car would need to be summoned, opened and told where to go so manufacturers should make these basic steps as simple as possible to enable maximise occupancy use, for occupants such as the old, infirm, children or dogs that wish to go walkies while their owner watches the snooker on TV.

However when in the interior space it won’t be a free-for-all, at least not for now.  You will not be able to meander around a vehicle making tea and dancing to Reggae music.  The laws of physics still apply so when the vehicle accelerates, brakes and corners you need to be securely strapped in to avoid spilling that tea or turning your Jamaican moves into an impromptu break dance.  Whether we get to the stage where accidents are so rare and driving so smooth that full freedom of movement will be allowed in the vehicle is yet to be proved.

So what are the level 5 control systems likely to include?  A reasonable guess is that within cities the vehicle may not be where you are when you first summon it.  There is a high likelihood of car sharing in the future and possibly the common use of tightly packed, remote storage.  If cars can operate autonomously why would they need to remain outside your property getting in the way of the rest of your life?  They are more likely to drive themselves off to a charging point or park in a remote car park, possibly automatically stacked several cars high or at least packed in nose to tail with no room between them to open doors.  For this reason to get in your car you will first need to summon it and this will in all probability be an application on your mobile device.  By then we would have to be accustomed to summoning a ride in good time and if it was a genuine emergency the system will just divert a closer ‘common use’ vehicle.

Just before the vehicle arrives it will probably be sending out a message for you to let you be aware of when it will get there and once at your location will be linked to your mobile device so that it is open as soon as you are ready.  A quick, bluetooth style, electronic ‘handshake’ between you and the vehicle and it will be ready for instructions on where to go next.

Of course it won’t move off until all occupants are secured into a seat, so no racing starts to beat your neighbour to the end of the Close.  The seats will then probably be able to determine who is sat there and make suitable adjustments that the occupant has used before, whether it be facing ahead, in a face to face group gathering or prone for a sleepy ride.

One person will then probably state a destination requirement, such as “Hey car, take us to The Dog & Duck, via Barry’s place.”  This will prompt the car to respond such as “You wish to go to Kentucky to buy some milk, please confirm.”  Or at least it will do if voice command doesn’t get any better.  But in any case the vehicle will have a tablet device slotted in somewhere so that more precise directions can be commanded.

But where can these vehicles operate in this transitional period?

At first driverless vehicles will be at level 3, with the ‘I’m busy, I can’t get to the controls at the moment’ mode not yet an option.  The driver will still be sat behind a steering wheel and actually using it in most cases.  The first autonomy will likely be allowed on main roads in good conditions in the beginning with driver control on local streets.  This could happen now as many makes of cars already have the technology fitted to do this but are restricted only by local laws.  This may mean the learning of new motorway and A-road signs permitting such autonomy.

 

avplate
A suggestion for an illuminated plate to be attached to the rear of a vehicle to indicate to following vehicles that autonomous operations are in use

I foresee from this an interim period when autonomous vehicles have to display some sort of external evidence of potential auto control, probably backed up by an electronic ‘black box’ of trickery to meet certain criteria.  Could there eventually be lanes designated only for autonomous cars, the outer lanes, geofenced to prevent access until you select autonomous mode?  You might try to join in but the system just won’t let you.  But when you can join in you could be cruising with cars travelling along at near to 200mph.

So does this mean that wise purchasers should be ticking these level 2/3 autonomous options on their vehicle builds now?  Note to self when ordering that car, choose adaptive cruise control, lane departure and speed limit recognition camera option on the next build.  It’s only another £4k after all.  And when LIDAR becomes available I’m sure this will be just as, ahem, competitively priced.

This will all have to be developed in conjunction with the latest 5G mobile networking systems.  This new high speed, high capacity internet will be needed to do the physical geofencing and authorisation along with the various car to car [v2v] and car to surroundings [v2b – b for base/infrastructure] communications needed for safe use of packed roads and high speeds.

In time it will be these same main roads where eventually all lanes introduce compulsory autonomous operation and older ill equipped vehicles will be barred.

And you can be certain that at all these stages governments and authorities will meet resistance from some, so expect a considerable amount of discussion and opinions.  Mainly by me.

All this as we head towards full level 4 and 5 autonomy.  But as I am considering the transitional period proceeding this then what else can we expect?  And in particular what about the transition of our current cars.

At present the driverless mule cars being developed by manufacturers, the big tech giants and tech start ups resemble our current vehicles but splattered with an ugly array of cameras, radars, LIDAR, other sensors and devices all over them.  In time this technology will be miniaturised and so seamlessly integrated into our current saloon, estate, SUV and lorry shapes.

It is also reasonable to assume that the developers of this technology will also want to sell it as aftermarket accessories to vehicles that don’t sport such stuff at present.

But this may not be the only offering because I predict the self driving robot.  I discussed this in my comedy piece in February this year.

I foresee the introduction of approximately human sized self driving robots with the ability and technology to lock onto the necessary 5G systems and other relevant networks, connect to our cars using their inbuilt OBD socket then accurately survey and assess their surroundings.  These robots would be able to actually clamber into our current cars and quickly communicate with the new tranche of driverless vehicles around them.  Within they would have powerful computers and externally cameras, sensors and multiple ‘limbs’ to operate all the various functions of our current vehicles wherever the switches, seats, foot pedals, handbrakes, dials and controls are fitted.  They may even be able to get out to change a wheel, check the tyres and even set the clock to British Summer Time as well.  So clearly better than us.

I predict these robots will come before stage 6 autonomous cars are universally widespread, with licenses to roam wherever other autonomous vehicles may go.

Mind you there should always be a need to retain our own manual driving skills.  I don’t foresee most cars without any antiquated steering, speed or braking controls, even if they are usually tucked away out of sight.  We’ll need these to go where the maps don’t map, such as into the wilderness, through temporary road diversions or into the depths of Morrisons’ car parks.

And some specialists will still be needed to drive these auto-cars when things go wrong.  I’m assuming the car will work out itself when to drive off to the garage for an oil service or get a flat tyre sorted but someone will have to pick up the ones that have faults reading something like error 404 bad sector.  So don’t put that Highway Code in the bin just yet.

Part Three – Issues and Scenarios

Within this third section I highlight just some of the issues surrounding this fascinating and complex subject.

One frightening aspect of autonomous control is the question of how a vehicle automatically relates to making life or death decisions.  This is something we as humans already do when driving.

For example if you are driving along past some parked cars and a person, previously unseen, steps out from between two high sided vehicles in front of the car most of us would brake heavily to avoid contact.  It’s natural.  Usually before we can reassess whether our braking may affect any following driver.

Make that person stepping into the road your own child and you are likely to alter your decision, even swerving into the path of an oncoming vehicle with a chance of potentially killing yourself rather than the child.  All without any thought to the opposing driver or occupants.

If asked to assess this in a calm and controlled manner, with enough time to work out all the permutations a different scenario may present itself.  If you knew that hard braking would avoid your child’s death but knock them over without any major or long term repercussions, plus any following car was astute enough to brake behind you in time and the opposing vehicle had a number of other children on board who would all escape injury then your decision may change.  To knock your little offspring over to teach them a lesson for being so cavalier in their attitude to road safety.

The trouble is we humans can’t work all this out quick enough.  But we are building machines that can.  So these machines have to have these sort of morals programmed into them.

There are many examples of these ethical decisions already out there in Internet Land so I won’t be repetitive here suffice to say they mostly base around speeding trains and pulling levers to decide which sub-branch line is selected thereby rendering different groupings of people being hit.  The concluding moral usually being, choose to hit less people, select killing the elderly over the young and save people rather than cats.  However, the true lesson to be learnt should be stop hanging around highly dangerous train sidings, particularly if you are an elderly singleton with your pet.

So let me propose some novel but more real world driving scenarios.

You are travelling in lane one at the legal speed limit on a multiple lane high speed road and arrive upon a joining junction. You notice two cars driving slowly up the slip road who will want to join your lane.  They have not yet got up to the speed you are maintaining and you have plenty of room to pass by before they join the stream.  You are also aware that no one is travelling along in the lane behind you but a fast moving [read speeding] vehicle is behind you coming up fast in the lane outside of you.

Suddenly, despite the adequately long slip road the first car joining the traffic makes a sudden and poorly executed swerve manoeuvre straight into your path right in front of you, seriously impeding your position and rendering you unable to brake in time.  At the same time the speeding car in the outer lane is now blocking your escape route into any outer lane and the second car joining the traffic is blocking your escape route back onto the slip road.

You have no choice but to collide with one or another.  Which car should you hit?

Take the opportunity to craft your thoughts as a comment.  Take your time to consider all the implications.  But if you are an autonomous vehicle you have 15 milliseconds.

Let’s try another.  A little simpler this time and with no potential death.

An autonomous car is joining a motorway.  A car, already on the motorway on the inside lane moves out to the centre lane to allow the autonomous car to join.  They are now both on the motorway doing the legal top speed but travelling along next to each other.  Should the autonomous car slow to allow the car already on the motorway to move back to lane one?  And if it did and the other car did not move back to lane one what action should be taken by the autonomous one?

Again please feel free to comment.

A third scenario.  Two autonomous cars, each equipped with v2v, approach a roundabout to arrive at the same time.  Normal yielding rules apply on roundabouts but what if the one who has to yield has to wait a long time because the other has a long train of vehicles behind them?  Logic may dictate via the v2v system to slow the approaching car with priority to allow all to progress the most efficiently.  Or should the car with priority consider the stream of vehicles behind, who all technically have priority over the other.

Remember to consider all general occupants and the environmental impacts of your choices.

Now, add in a priority level.  If one were an emergency vehicle or even if an emergency vehicle was in the train of following ones surely they would command full priority, no matter how much any other vehicles are impeded.

So, with priority level a consideration could the collective computers start addressing occupant needs?  Is one occupant late for work?  Is one just shopping [you can tell from my biased terminology that I am probably male. I am]?  Do more occupants increase an individual vehicles’ priority?  Or even, has one driver had the benefit of more priority decisions this month?

And will autonomous vehicles make overtaking decisions based on all this?  Deliberately slowing or stopping cars to allow others to proceed.

If all this is so, I think I’m registering my occupation as a Heart Surgeon and then filling my mobile phone’s calendar with fictitious operation appointments.

And so far I haven’t really touched on the subject of goods vehicles.  These classes are the most likely to be fitted with this autonomous technology at first.  After all the big lorries tend to travel major routes and often visit the same tightly controlled distribution depots.

So let’s set a scenario involving a number of autonomous heavy goods vehicles, all in an effective convoy, possibly cruising along, slipstreaming each other inches apart in order to travel the most economically.

What happens when you are cruising along in lane 2 in your non-autonomous car passing this effective wall of trucks on the inside lane but you need to exit a slip road ahead?  What could you do?  Should legislation determine convoys have to leave a gap between every, say, 5 lorries?  Or should legislation dictate that ‘convoys’ completely break apart on approaching junctions to prevent last minute exiteers* attempting to fight for the same limited space?  Or will we need a different road engineered solution, such as ‘convoys’ being restricted to outer lanes?  So will we eventually have new junctions that pass over the carriageway and join from the other side?

As you can see there are a number of issues that are currently going through the minds of the programmers and engineers who are active in the field of autonomous vehicle operation and the more scenarios like this that we can imagine the better the autonomy will become.

Part Four – The Future

I have already addressed priority mode, particularly in relation to emergency priority, but what about our future day to day journeying?

I foresee an important setting to be made at offset is your own, settable, priority mode.   Unless the car is singing the same tune as your calendar of appointments within your connected mobile device it will need to know the urgency of your journey.  After all at times we are in no particular hurry and don’t mind a leisurely drive.  During other times economy may be our main driver, as it were.  Maybe you wish to avoid tolls, or motorways.  Then on some occasions you may be running a bit late and want to get on with things.  Or there may be an emergency which you need to attend to and the vehicle would be instructed to travel as fast as is safe to do so.

In a sense we already have similar basic options on our current cars, or at least those sensible ones fitted with automatic gearboxes, although admittedly the actual speed is more dependent on the angle of your right foot.  That is what the E-S-M [or similar] switch does in your car, it chooses your selected priority mode and adjusts the car engine and possibly suspension characteristics to suit.  Typically, E for economy, S for Strewth this car can shift a bit and M for Memories wherin I remember when we had to actually choose the gears ourselves.

This of course means that when the autonomous vehicles are trundling around those cars set on the more leisurely settings should prioritise those on a speedier setting so every traveller is satisfied.  Overtaking will occur in this future but only with the ‘permission’ of other vehicles.  In fact you may notice that in some cases all cars going in opposite directions stop to allow another to overtake a whole queue.  Even if you don’t spot this happening because you are resting in a catatonic state in your car, or perhaps reading the latest Rom-com, which amounts to much the same thing.

Also at junctions those cars set to economy or leisurely may wait for those with more urgent settings to pass by first.

This automated priority could be abused by some so don’t be surprised if future legislation limits instances of hurrying to create a fairer system.

However, in time we shall become accustomed to this sort of behaviour without entertaining jealous thoughts of others.

But whatever mode we preselect all will be prioritised over the autonomous goods vehicles trundling around, looking for somewhere safe to drop their cargo.

Then there is the case of money.  Isn’t this always the case?  Could wealthy individuals purchase priority?  Maybe self appointed ‘celebrities’ will demand progress to avoid being caught up in a queue with the rest of us?  And perhaps the most interesting question of all, what about the old geezer with a classic car?

By classic car I am thinking maybe a 2019 model.  You know the sort.  One that is not really autonomous at all.  This ancient relic has no way of interacting with the then contemporary tranche of autonomous vehicles and will struggle to merge into a gap of fast travelling auto-vehicles seemingly joined nose to tail at high speed on the major roads.  Well, fear not.  For the rules of autonomy mean that autonomous vehicles have to do all they can to avoid accidents, so even a rogue, manually controlled one will have carte blanche to proceed as they wish and all the driverless ones will just jolly well have to get out of their way.

Now when the majority of vehicles are fully automated and controlled under a vast database of v2v and v2b systems, will we no longer need visible, plated speed control signs?  After all the vehicles will know what speed to travel according to legislation and the road type.  So, will top speed be effectively unlimited?

I think not.  For a start there are consequences of potential accidents being more dangerous at higher speeds.  Autonomy, whilst highly likely to reduce accidents, could not work to prevent them altogether.  Mechanical failure, physics and build quality could all still play a part.  Road traffic accidents can be minimised by risk management but no matter how much effort is put in they can still happen.

Finally, unlimited top speeds present questions from an ecological standpoint.  Even if we have entered an age of unlimited free solar energy, because wear and tear on components would still apply.

So these are a few things we will probably have to look out for in a world of common autonomy amongst vehicles.

Part Five – Interesting Questions and Considerations

Let me ask a question that may seem silly at first but bear with me because it has a serious undertone.  Will our vehicles eventually let us get into them in the first place?

After all we will programme them to protect us from ourselves.  We will demand that these cars can take us to the pub and return us home when we ourselves are incapable of doing so without risk to ourselves or others.  We will ask them to transport our nearest and dearest in the safest way possible.  We will use them to transport our goods to destinations of our choice reliably and efficiently, without additional supervision.  And the elderly and infirm will need to be able to fully trust these machines to protect them when they are unable to do this themselves.

To ensure the highest standards of safety we will programme them with the ability to self learn from errors made and their experience will be put to common use in vast databases to ensure the errors of one can be learnt by the many.  In time this self learning will be more efficient within the databases than within human programmers so in essence the learning will supersede human ability.  Some characterise this learning curve as becoming ‘self aware’.

This could be a frightening issue for those that construct their mindset based on dramatic science fiction stories and who may foresee a future when these advance vehicles refuse to transport their owners because they judge their safety to be more important than the journey.  And no journey can guarantee safety.

Or if we send them off to find a parking space will they definitely return to us when summoned back?  Or will they consider the effort just too much to bother with?  Or possibly will they be too busy picking up a more ‘deserving’ passenger?

This is all of course something that will not happen because we can, or at least I can, foresee this potential issue.

There is a fear amongst the pre-mentioned sci-fi followers to assume that a robotic future means that mankind will be made irrelevant upon machine self awareness.  After all, some argue, if the machines are ‘better’ than us then why we would we needed?  The answer to this is actually simple.  Machines are made by mankind, for mankind and without mankind what is the purpose of said machines?  I can work this out so I am sure robotic vehicle version 935.8.487 can figure this out as well.  Even if it has to find and read this article first.

The above arguments raise another issue.  Should we be able to trust future autonomous vehicles to transport our children and therefore at what age?

I believe this is no more complex than consulting current standards of childcare.  In other words it is fine to send the car off to take your child to middle school but not send your new born baby fifty miles alone to be greeted by the grandparents.

The same would be for transporting your animals.  By all means send Fluffy to the vet, provided the surgery is prepared to accept the consignment and Fluffy is secured in the vehicle with sufficient fresh air and water.

And on the subject of transporting goods this will become commonplace, with the vehicles secured at offset and only accessible by the appropriate person on arrival.

All of which is ideal for drug running businesses across the border.  The authorities never suspecting this, mainly as they will rightly assume all the drug transport will be via autonomous drones.  But what if the drug vehicle carriers are impounded?  Who is deemed legally responsible, the vehicle owner but it could have been stolen, the manufacturer or the software engineer?

Sorry, I have swayed into story time again.  Anyway it’s fun so let’s continue with some other radical thoughts.

What about a future where autonomous cars, who’s owners have died or abandoned their vehicles, still roam the streets?  After all that is their raison d’être.  Forever left to search for electric charging points, heading off to get serviced and driving around with no passengers aimlessly searching for a reason to exist?  If this isn’t a side feature in the next Ridley Scott movie I will be extremely disappointed.

And finally, could self driving cars communicating together end up doing formation patterns, just for the sheer fun of it all?  I hope the programmers include this possibility.  Look out for future photographs of busy motorways from above wherein the cars are precisely positioned to spell out ‘vinceunlimited’.

And that’s neatly back to where we started off.  So, while you still can, drive safely** Vince

I’m sure I will return to this fascinating and developing subject in the future so keep following me on this web site, on WordPress, Twitter and in an appropriate lane on the A31 for more insightful commentary.

Author: Vince Poynter

Originally posted on my web site, version 5.267 http://www.vinceunlimited.co.uk/autonomous.htm during the five days of week commencing 24 June 2019
Also available as a mobile version at vinceunlimited.co.uk/autonomousm.htm
The aforementioned blog post ‘According To Me‘ is also on this WordPress site dated 1 June 2018
The aforementioned podcast ‘Pod 005 – Lanserguided‘ is also on this WordPress site dated 3 September 2014
My short stand up routine about driverless cars was performed on 20 Feb 2019 and can be found on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g5UuzeIm-M
Wikipedia Autonomous Driving Information Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomous_car\
The photograph is of a Benz Patent-Motorwagen and was taken by the author at the Beaulieu Motor Museum, Hampshire on 10 November 2013
The Autonomous Vehicle Plate was designed and drawn by the author. It was created by adding the text into a Keynote slide, then printing and hand drawing the lines and graphics
* Note: This is not a Brexit reference
** Message also addressed to all future autonomous vehicles

The Smelliest Car

A vinceunlimited blog article from 19 Nov 2008

I read in Advanced Driving magazine about a new car from the French battery company Bolloré.

An electrically propelled vehicle to be called the B0.  That is the ‘B-zero’.

I somehow doubted that it will be called that.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Blog and Petrolhead sections of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 11 Jul 2018
First published on 19 Nov 200
8
The first prototype was called La Blue Car.  It became the La Pininfarina B0 [zero] in 2008 with model releases in 2013 and then with Renault in 2015.  Since then it appears to have passed in the wind.  Like the Mercedes-Beans

Advanced Driving magazine was published by the Institute of Advanced Motorists [IAM], an advanced driving charity with a purpose to improve driving standards, now called IAM RoadSmart

The Driver

The Driver

Fiction By Vince

Written July 2006 as a submission for a BBC radio writing request held during the 2006 football World Cup.  In all the BBC received over 1100 entries but they didn’t think this eligible for publication.  I do, so have done so here.  Belligerent?  Damn right.


 

The author photographed sitting in a blue Mercedes AMG GT V8 powered sports car
A professional driver. A powerful car.  All that’s needed is an empty road

Can you hear it?  Just there, right now.  That eerie silence.

Normally right here about this time there would be a cacophony of sound.  It was there just a few minutes ago but now it’s all gone.  All gone with the rest of them.  Just me.  And that beautiful silence.  It’s about time I changed all that.

[The sound of V8 engine rumbles into life]

Now that’s even better.  The purest sound known to people like me.  You can forget your whale song, newborn and opera, this is the best sound available to mankind.  At least if your veins gush with four-star and you pray to the God of Clarkson.  And for us true petrol heads right here, right now is when we can get our biggest fix.

You see to really appreciate a car like this you need, well first off, a car like this.  A thrilling combination of beauty, power and performance.  But just as important you need space.  Space to fulfil your dreams.  Space to stretch her legs.  Space to touch the edge of the envelope.

And don’t go thinking that the reference to stretching her legs is some sort of sexual suggestion.  No, for the true purist you can forget your Kirsten Scott Thomases and Angelina Jolies.  Right now I wouldn’t even have the gorgeous Vicky Butler-Henderson sat here.  What I’m about to do is at its best as a solitary pursuit.  You can’t say that about many things.

It is indeed a rare occurrence, blue moon, haystack needle sort of thing and I’m about to make the most of it.  I’m at odds with the rest of the world but at peace with myself.  On the starting grid of something truly spiritual.  Outside, rebellious, dangerous, exciting.

This has all happened because of football.  It’s never been my kind of thing really.  Of course I sound authoritative discussing some points with my peers and often watch a publicised match or two.  I even casually follow my local team’s progress.  However, I have a sneaking admiration for those that truly no nothing of the beautiful game and believe that the overpaid superstars really ought to get a proper job.  But right now, when communal fervour has driven everyone inside and off my road I am truly grateful that it is our national sport.

[The V8 revs]

Did you hear that?  Primed and ready to rock and roll.  Not that I’m going to play any music.  Truly great driving sounds come from pistons, intakes and exhausts.  Motorhead has nothing on a V8 in a tunnel.  And a tyre squeal sings better than Led Zep.

I’ll have to be careful though.  I won’t quite be the only one out here for the next ninety.

I’m not talking about other demons like me.  We are a rare breed and share an instinctive support for each other.  If we pass there will be no tantrums, no drama.  Fast at speed maybe, but in total control as only a true driving god is.  We may kick at the speed of light but we know where and when it is right to go for a goal.

Even the mortals in their Sunny one-point-twos quietly going about their daily business, as oblivious to the tournament as they are to life in general won’t be a problem.  My sudden presence then disappearance would only shock if they actually had the ability to react.

No, my real problem will be those boys in blue who are forced to miss the moment that everyone will be talking about for the next forty years.  This will instil a deep rooted jealousy that can only be satiated by persecuting a man like me.  I’ll have to be on my game.

Kick off in five minutes time.  Just like the others but for other reasons I’ve etched this time firmly in my psyche.  Sat here in this lay-by counting down the minutes, then the seconds.  Watching the fading remnants of morons racing past to get to their phosphor alters.

Nearly time to go.  Nearly time for life to take its true meaning.  Nearly there.  The road ahead clears.  No-one around.  Empty silence.

Dip clutch…first gear…final check over shoulder…ease out clutch…and we’re off.

[The V8 rumbles]

It is totally clear ahead and my freedom beckons.  I can go any route I chose, like an eagle soaring through the skies.  Left or right at this junction, the choice is only mine.  Floor it now…

…With any luck I’ll make it back in time for the match.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Fiction section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 26 Jun 2018
First Published: Version 2.04 in Dec 2006

Written July 2006 and submitted to the BBC as part of a radio script submission request

According To Me

Another blog from the 2006 archives. My first mention of autonomous driving and the insurance implications…

A close up photograph of toy green classic mini in a rather tatty state with red overpainted opening doors, bonnet and roof with a blue circle logo on the door
The result of an accident between a car and a small child

I have just read about a development of a technology from one major car manufacturer that encompasses radar, cruise control and the ability to follow white line markings whilst steering to effectively allow the car to drive itself.

All these technologies are already produced but this car combines them all.

The car in question is a Honda Accord – the pensioners of Britain must be wetting themselves with glee.

All this relies on effective road marking of course but nobody has yet made that quantum leap into the future to envisage who might have to take responsibility should it all go pear-shaped.

Can we look forward to the accident case where the driver claims that he was not actually controlling the car, whereas the manufacturer will be pointing to some small print in their instructions whilst the insurance company attempts to blame the road maintenance companies?

All of which means the poor motorist that was crashed into will be a pensioner himself before he gets compensation.

All of which he’ll spend on a new Accord.

And the circle will continue ad infinitum…

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Petrolhead and Blog sections of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 1 Jun 2018
First Published:
 Version 2.03 on 14 Jun 2006

Alphacar

A to Zoom

I was talking to a friend of mine about cars that people drive.
We all have preconceived ideas about their thoughts and lives.
And when I thought back on my life and cars I used to own,
I fitted all the types there were.  And I was not alone.

I started with an Austin.  A10 I think it was.
I loved that little car you know, with its paint a thick black gloss.
But when I was in the country and doing thirty-five,
All I got was horns and lights and people shouting “You can’t drive!”

So I got myself a new car.  I felt just like a king,
Even if the handling was like a prayer upon a wing.
But my Beetle days still haunt me.  In spirit anyway,
I still want love not war you know … and at any time of day.

Those days with my old Beetle made me think environment,
My mind was getting greener about the energy we spent.
So I went down to the High Street and got my fivers out,
And bought the latest fashion one couldn’t do without.

I purchased one of those things Sinclair called a C5.
I even bought the pole and flag so I’d be seen and kept alive.
I thought I was a hero and pollution was no longer,
But everyone who saw me in the street thought me a plonker.

I had to go upmarket so I became a Gent.
My Daimler was a class act, everywhere it went.
With tables in the rear and leather lined throughout.
The shiny paint was gleaming, I never had a doubt.

Until someone with a switchblade, ran it down the side.
I couldn’t keep the car no more, so sold it then I cried.
I had to get a basic car, something not so new,
An ubiquitous vehicle, an old Escort would do.

Although it was a simple thing I liked that little car,
And when the MOT ran out I didn’t look too far.
The company helped my choosing, I wasn’t at a loss,
They brought out a modern version.  I brought a new Focus.

I had the modern family car but with styling like a shark,
But I couldn’t find the damn thing when in a big car park.
So I changed it for another.  A car that looked much harder.
The Sweeney gave me the idea, I brought a black Granada.

I raced it here and raced it there all around the town,
But when the local bank was done they nearly sent me down.
I had to trade it in for something not so big and black.
So brought a Hillman next.  An Imp, with its engine at the back.

I tottered round the roads nearby but never went too mad.
The handling was, lets put it this way, pretty flipping bad.
One day I took a corner, I was only doing twenty-eight,
The skinny tyres gave me no grip, the car just went on straight.

Over pavement, through the hedge, half way up a leap.
I thought, this was fun I’ll go again but this time in a Jeep.
My off-roader was a total hoot.  I went round with muddy feet,
And everyone got out the way when I drove down the street.

But the Jeep was far too thirsty and I’m a sometimes frugal man,
I still needed all the cargo space so I brought a Kangoo van.
Economy and load lugging – they were second to none.
But nought to sixty in eighteen secs meant I didn’t pull anyone.

And a man has needs above the needs of his economy,
So I splashed my cash and traded up for a new Lamborghini.
Ray–bans specs, laying rubber lines and acting just like Rambo,
I terrorised the neighbourhood driving in my Lambo.

It had to go when I got caught going more than fifty-five.
Not much you think, but then again, it was in my front drive.
And when I tried to fit it past all the cars in my small street,
It wouldn’t fit as it was about as wide as seven feet.

I changed the car for something that I could drive most anywhere,
A shopping trip, an opera, a classless car without a care.
My little Mini would park up outside a flash boutique,
Or fit in with chavs at markets collecting their cheap meat.

So I lavished love and bits on it at every opportunity,
So much that it resembled last year’s Christmas tree.
And when the thing was laden down with all the bits from near and far,
I decided to trade it in for a proper custom car.

I looked around the free-ads and asked around the meets,
But most were overpriced and under funded junk-yard heaps.
Finding one seemed just like hunting out a four-leaf clover,
So I bought the latest ‘in-thing’ a custom Vauxhall Nova.

The bonnet bulge and paintwork made it stand out alright,
And the turbo-charged conversion set the big fat tyres alight.
Even the huge spoiler, which did nothing for my front wheel drive,
Seemed to shout I’m here – I’m now – I’m definitely alive.

But then I got my hair cut in the shape of cheddar cheese,
And wore my jeans hung down so low the crotch was near my knees.
And when I got the beanie hat, worn facing back to front,
It fell across my eyes and resulted in a shunt.

The Nova was a write off (all I salvaged was the dice),
So I had to start again from scratch and look for something nice.
The fancy car mags were the first place that I kept my eye on,
So, how is it I ended up with a mangy Ford Orion?

I guess they call it growing up and finally settling down.
The car was Mr. Sensible – for motorway or town.
I only had it two months, but it really seemed an age,
I guess that’s what happens when you drive something beige.

And in those two months living with the dreadful booted Ford,
Invisibly travelling round the place, getting me quite bored.
I had to get a car that shouted out until it’s hoarse.
Yes, you’re there before me.  A turbo-charged black Porsche.

I was the Mr. P-Man.  Seeing cars off at every light.
I’d give the single finger but I never stayed to fight.
They just couldn’t catch me when I laid my horses down.
The kids would grow up thinking I’m King without a crown.

I attained a God like status, pulling all the skirt,
I saw so much good loving that things started to hurt.
But when I faced up to a car and saluted in my way,
I didn’t realise his little Caterham could blow me away.

And when he got my number and threatened life and limb,
I chose to ditch the Porsche and get a hiding thing.
Something that had no-one thinking – he is up for S.E.X.
And Nissan came to my rescue with its big QX.

Now Q-cars look quite normal but are faster underneath,
With acceleration giving goose bumps and speed to clench your teeth.
It was big and strong and manly but this was not enough,
The stylist had a day off when this car was signed off.

And with performance comes the cost, fuel soaked up like a sponge,
But the styling didn’t get the looks despite being painted orange.
It finally put paid to all fast living and days out clubbing.
I had more luck when I changed it for a new Reliant Robin.

A new Reliant Robin buyer – I must have been a mug,
The salesman saw me coming and sold me a three-pin plug.
If you missed a hole with the front wheel the back would surely find.
Speed-humps eventually wrecked the car and rattled up my mind.

So I changed again and this time I went out all the way,
I brought a big red car with wings – a Chevrolet Stingray.
I posed about the town again driving like a lout,
But as it was American it didn’t make the roundabout.

A British car would make more sense than a big Yankee car,
And nothing seemed better than one named after a girl’s bra.
The Triumph was a perfect car made in steel for Purdy’s Steele,
But rust took away the pleasure along with the nearside cill.

I needed a rainproof vehicle ’cause I parked it near the shore,
Where savage rains and sea-salt oxidised metal to the core.
I had to get some transport built for this environment,
And invested in a U-boat from the German government.

Now, as you can imagine, this idea was not plain sailing.
At over fifty years old I spent too much time a’bailing.
And when I visited relatives or went down to the mall,
Torpedo tubes and periscopes couldn’t make up the shortfall.

I sold the boat to a contact in a complex and shady deal,
He would let me know his name, but Prince H was on the bill.
I had to get a some normal wheels and settled on a car,
You can’t get more normal than a (yawn) Vauxhall Vectra.

The lanes of Britain’s motorways opened up for me.
I say the lanes, actually it was only the one we all call three.
I finally had a way to do ninety mph city-to-city hacks,
And as a bonus somewhere to hang my coat up in the back.

But doing this for nine months solid without missing out one beat,
I put too many miles on and had a rapid over-heat.
I needed a new engine and wanted something cool.
I went for a different way of things and brought a new Wankle.

The rotary engine was a talking point in shops and at the Pub,
But when I loudly said its name I got fired from the country club.
They wouldn’t let me back in until I apologised and show,
I could get a classic British car to sit in the member’s row.

But I had followed alphabet choice, so was a good trendsetter,
And classic steeds did not start with requisite next letter,
But Jaguar they saved the day and followed up the hype,
With a brand new four-wheel drive, shiny new X-type.

With all my wheels in motion I could climb the highest peak,
But spent all day in traffic jams, cars tucked cheek to cheek.
The daily grind was wasteful as the fuel gauge dropped so far,
But that was nothing next to depreciation that fell off the radar.

I had to ditch the cruise control and my leather seats all had to go,
I swapped it at a dealers for a few grand and a nearly new Yugo.
And that is why I’m writing this to recall my memories.
I’ve been from A to Y in cars and motoring was a wheeze.

But I have yet to finish – It’s the way that I behave,
And I’ve settled on the last one that shall take me to the grave.
When I’ve saved enough to get me a fast zed for a few bob.
A classic Kawasaki or a Zonda Paganini should do the job.

Author: Vince Poynter

From the Cars section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 21 Feb 2018
First Published: Version 1.04 in Mar 2005, with photos added in 2018
Performed as part of the vinceunlimited Podcast 013 entitled Alphacar on this WordPress site dated 29 Oct 2014. Also available via Apple iTunes.
The image depicts the rear of a Ferrari 360 with a photoshopped registration number plate.  It was taken from a cherished number plate site, source now unknown, around 2002.  Please advise if you know of the source material and I will duly give credit.

Pod 013 Alphacar

Welcome to another episode of the vinceunlimited podcast.

In this episode Vince tells a tale of all the cars he’s had using the medium of artistic dance. Only verbally.

This is a podcast from the vinceunlimited series of podcasts and can be had here or on iTunes. Lucky you.

This podcast was written and performed by Vince, recorded on an iPhone via the Mobile Podcaster App and uploaded direct to WordPress from within the App to vinceunlimited.wordpress.com

Pod 013 Alphacar

Pod 006 Characters

Welcome to another episode of the vinceunlimited podcast.

In a change to the 10 minute narrative Vince brings you pieces from his friends Bob and Hans making up a convenient 10 minute narrative.

Each guest brings their special take on their specialist subject.

Just don’t update Wikipedia.

This is a podcast from the vinceunlimited series of podcasts. Nothing more. Nothing less.

This podcast was written and performed by Vince, recorded on an iPhone via the Mobile Podcaster App and uploaded direct to WordPress from within the App to vinceunlimited.wordpress.com. Feel free to subscribe via iTunes and leave feedback for others. Don’t be selfish and keep it all to yourself.

Pod 006 Characters

Pod 005 Lanserguided

Welcome to another episode of the vinceunlimited podcast.

In this episode Vince finds a feature not on the spec sheet of a new Mercedes-Benz S Class then attempts to find ways of going quicker safely before considering the implications of the self driving vehicles of the future.

This is a podcast from the vinceunlimited series of podcasts. Which will come as no surprise to the regular listeners.

This podcast was written and performed by Vince, recorded on an iPhone via the Mobile Podcaster App and uploaded direct to WordPress from within the App to vinceunlimited.wordpress.com

Pod 005 Lanserguided

Pod 002 Electrohead

Welcome to another episode of the vinceunlimited podcast. In this podcast Vince sets off on a journey with you telling amusing stories about the cars he likes and dislikes along the way

This is another podcast from the vinceunlimited series of podcasts. When it’s loaded click the little arrow on the left to set it off

This podcast was written and performed by Vince, recorded on an iPhone via the Mobile Podcaster App and uploaded direct to WordPress from within the App to vinceunlimited.wordpress.com

Pod 002 Electrohead

Driving Like Me

I don’t like anything.

That is to say I don’t LIKE anything.

I don’t mean I don’t like any thing.  That would just be ridiculous.  Or perhaps suggest my only experience of tech is the Amstrad emailer phone, the Sinclair C5 and the Blackberry Playbook.

What I mean is I never click on little digital thumb symbols to give my unadulterated approval of anything I see on the Internet.  It is beset with implication.

It is such an easy thing to do and I often think I would love to give a simple little nod of approval to an article that’s posted or a comment made.  A nice way to encourage the author to keep up with their fine work.

The problem is I’m aware that the simple little LIKE feature can be a powerful tool in the hands of a menacing Corporate Social Media baron.

Say for instance I read a great tip on how on how to mend a leak in a Dutch levee and so added my approval.  Before long and unbeknownst to me, my contacts may be bestowed with the message that Vince likes Dykes.  My mates would exclaim, “Crikes, Vince likes Dykes.”

As you can see I am no longer controlling my Internet profile.  It is being blown out of proportion to my original simple and contemporary appreciation of my friend Michael’s great posting on travelling Dutch waterways – Mike’s Bike Hikes On Dykes – if you’re interested.*

I personally wish the LIKE button remained just an innocent way to compliment something and where I would most appreciate this function is when I’m out and about on the road.

Imagine a LIKE button feature on cars using a simple dash mounted switch to display a screen mounted message.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could just flick your knob every time you saw something you appreciated on the road.  And a little LED screen message popped up with the word LIKE.

You could use this to commend other motorists on good behaviour such as being let out of a side turning, leaving a proper stopping distance or generally getting out of my way when I’m trying to get home quickly to listen to a live video podcast.

I would love to get an acknowledged thumbs up for a great overtaking manoeuvre I had just performed or perhaps to dish one out as appreciation of you bringing out your posh new sports car on a wet Wednesday.

The natural extension of the motoring LIKE button is the obverse DISLIKE message.  This would be applied for commenting on bad driving such as cutting in, poor lane discipline or running over a child.

And in this interconnected world the messages could be linked.  When a LIKE or DISLIKE is given it could be Bluetoothly transferred between vehicles.  In this way all the LIKEs and DISLIKEs could be tallied up over a period to give a measure on how considerate a driver you are.

The downside would be that before long this score would be wiretoothed to your insurance company to affect your premium.  And unlike Stock Markets this value never seems to go down as well as up no matter how many LIKEs you would receive.

Another vehicle to vehicle message could be based on the the ‘blue flag’ indicator commonly seen in F1 racing.  Imagine having an illuminated blue lamp to signify that the car behind is going quicker and is wanting to get past.

I travel, ahem, promptly but always leave a good stopping distance.  This can confuse the average, ambling, myopic driver ahead, loping along thoughtlessly in an outer lane.  He hasn’t used his rear view mirror since 1973 and refuses to use the perfectly adequate and strangely empty lane to his inside but will politely move over if it is bought to his startling attention that another car is on the road and wishes to travel quicker.  Even if on passing he immediately re-engages his previous position once more in that unfathomable lane change manoeuvre.

The ‘I want to overtake you blue flag light’ would be more polite than the traditional aggressive flash, the inside lane parallel formation drive with attendant shrug or the oft-used rear approach to within 6mm of the bumper.  The latter being the favoured approach by drivers with four interlocking rings on their grille.

Incidentally all small Japanese cars driven by the elderly will have to have their blue flag message light illuminated every three minutes by law as they are invariably in the way.

I say bring on car to car comms.  I would LIKE that.

PS if you like this blog click the LIKE button.  I know I wouldn’t.

PPS *Did you really Google this?