a. When Martians visit our planet they will probably conclude that the most prevalent life form moving around here is “the Car”. In fact millions of metal boxes driving on wheels with a weak content: humans.
But what will puzzle them more is how primitive these creatures “talk” to each other. Even ants have a vocabulary with at least 8 smells when they touch each others antennae on their paths to food. With those smell signal CONNECTIONS they can build airco, humidity control, storerooms and escape tunnels in their anthills (emergent structures).
Cars only have the following signals:
- Breaking indicator lights (3 on the back in Europe) when the brake pedal is pushed in;
- Direction indicator lights (left or right blinking signal) on the back and on the sides; can be used by blinking all of them to indicate an emergency stop;
- Night lights (2 red on backside, 2 white on front/with 2 intensities (city, full force); can be used to blink to warn opposing drivers;
- Horn; audio warnings signal.
b. Problem A. These 4 are incomplete to signal important life endangering information. For instance why are there no 2 read brake signals in the front of cars, to indicate to street crossing people at “zebra crossings”, that the approaching car is indeed braking and will stop. (recently proposed on Twitter).
Problem B. As you may know “languages” consist of at least three levels of communication between participants; and they are used and interpreted differently as if there is a Tower of Babel of dangerous confusion which can give rise to accidents and loss of life.
III Semantics (meaning)
II Syntax (structure of message)
I Signals transmitted
For cars these are at present quiet different in different (areas of) countries.
For instance the 4. horn is used differently in for instance LA, NY and Boston: a whole different language of short and long beeps (II) are used in anger by short fused drivers to insult eachother (III) in congestions, road obstructions and macho behavior combined with sometimes lethal handsignals.
Another example of possible confusion and accidents is use II and meaning III of the 2. Direction Indicator. When lorries on the highway turn that on, they will (nearly directly) swerve to the left in front of your car. And if you are just overtaking such lorry you have to brake strongly to avoid collision. Justification is that the lorries need a huge amount of energy (diesel) to slow down and speed up, while you in your car can do that easier. In some countries in Europe people use the same signaling when changing lane: I will change lane NOW. While in other countries it is an indication that you INTEND to change lane when there is room to do so sooner or later. A third possiblity (often encountered in France) is to change lane suddenly without using the direction indicator. Quite possible if everybody uses the same semiotic rule: [ only look streight in front of your car and brake if something enters your view or hit the gas pedal if there is nothing in front (Paris)].
c. My proposed direction of solution which might save a lot of lives by avoiding confusion by defining better Connections between cars:
i. let us first improve, unify and standardise the present syntax and semantics and semiotics of the present 4 signalling systems between the people in the cars.
ii. Implement a Prize*) to a Complexity Studies Student for the best extension of the 4 with 5. , 6, etc to build a more meaningful “inter car language” and which still simple to use. and will not distract or misuse for cursing each other 😦
iii Make a transition to extend such improved car-car language with wireless short distance communication. Cars can then be developed to start to drive in Smarms possibly using my #Weavelet Metaphor (see elsewhere on this blogpage, Short pres Jaap van Till ICCS Late News in Boston). This may deliver better safety and efficiency than individual self-driving cars.
Let us impress the Martians, so they may be want to talk to our cars and…. to humans.
*) I would be grateful to receive some funding to implement such a #BabelcarPrize including travel money for a jury. Donations for this can be sent to vantill at gmail.
jaap van till TheConnectivist