In the long-term future, car accidents will be, more or less, a thing of the past once AI is as smart or smarter than humans and can drive our cars for us more safely. Until that day comes, though, we’ll have to put up with us stupid, mistake-prone humans crashing into each other on the roads.
My concern isn’t so much the actual car accidents, since in any given time period, car accidents only affect a very small percentage of people. Other than one or two people bumping my bumper, I’ve been in exactly two car accidents in almost 30 years, and I drive every day. That’s one car accident every 15 years, and I know a lot of people like this.
Instead, my concern is the traffic and logistical problems car accidents cause. These problems affect everyone, even people who don’t drive but use buses instead. One car accident is scary and dangerous for two or three people, but when it happens on the freeway at rush hour, it causes massive inconveniences and problems for hundreds of thousands of people who have to sit in traffic like a turtle waiting for the damn cars and people to be removed from the freeway.
Where I live, there are several huge rivers that must be spanned by bridges. If even one or two of these bridges are snagged by car accident traffic, and you’re trying to get somewhere in your car, you’re basically fucked. There are no alternate routes; you just have to sit there and have your time wasted along with thousands upon thousands of other commuters.
Luckily, I set my own schedule, so I simply refuse to drive on the roads between 7am-9am and 3:30pm-7pm, since this is rush hour, and it takes double the travel time to do anything during these hours.
However, sometimes I have no choice. Approximately 70-80% of the time I drive during these hours, and I mean this now, 70-80% of the time, there is at least one, usually two major car accidents that turn a 35 or 40 minute drive into a 1.5 hour drive.
It is simply amazing to me that with today’s technology, we don’t do something more creative to solve this problem. The fact that major highways and freeways are government property makes this even worse, since government is the least creative sector of the economy by far.
Instead of paralyzing your entire city 10-12 times per week for all eternity, here’s what I propose:
1. Identify the 5-10 biggest choke points in your city’s traffic, the worst places to have accidents. These will usually be bridges, but can also be major freeway interchanges.
2. Park a heavy-duty transport airlift helicopter right by each one of these choke points. “Right by” does not mean “ten minutes away.” No, I mean park that bastard right by that choke point, and have a piloting crew and medical crew ready on constant standby. (And yes, I would happily pay the taxes for this. This is a valid government infrastructure expenditure.)
3. Equip each helicopter with an industrial-grade magnet that can be lowered and raised, like the kind junkyards use. Also equip each helicopter with whatever fire and medical equipment is needed for accident rescue and removal.
4. Whenever there is a car accident at one of these choke points, instead of sending an ambulance or fire truck, which has to navigate the wall-to-wall traffic and take forever, launch the helicopter, drop the crew down right into the accident zone, suck up any injured on roped gurneys, and use the magnet to instantly pluck the wrecks from the road.
By doing this, you could have the entire street cleared and traffic flowing again in less than five or even three minutes, instead of the insane 15-20 minutes it takes now. Not to mention any injured will get medical care much faster.
5. Fine anyone who is clearly at fault for any accident that causes any major traffic problems in your city. By “clearly at fault,” I mean if all the insurance companies clearly identify one dumbass as the 100% cause of the accident, fine that son of a bitch $5,000 for fucking up everyone else’s day and damaging the infrastructure viability of your city. Use these fines to help fund the helicopters and their crews. (If the insurance companies disagree about who’s at fault, or say no one is 100% to blame, then don’t fine anyone.)
I’ve seen a lot of people drive. It is very clear to me that a significant percentage of the population just doesn’t give a shit if they get into a car accident. Okay. Let’s fine these assholes. Safe drivers like myself have nothing to fear. As I’ve shown with my one-accident-per-15-year track record, driving safely is not difficult.
Again, I’m only talking about major cities here and major traffic choke points within those cities. I’m not talking about all roads, or all bridges, or all cities.
I don’t expect any of this to ever happen (in the Western world anyway) since government doesn’t have that kind of creativity. I’m just stunned that most major cities in the world still force everyone to sit in their cars for over an hour just because they haven’t figured out a simple way (one of which I just described) to clear the roads fast for when accidents occur.