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The Failed Automated Highway System (AHS) for Improving Safety

Auto manufacturers are pursuing and slowly introducing elements of autonomous vehicles. Soon, buyers will have self-driving cars and trucks. But did you know that not long ago there was an effort to automate the highway system to achieve driverless cars? The concept was the National Automated Highway System (AHS). A vision of driverless cars occurred as early as the 1939 New York World’s Fair at the GM exhibit called Futurama17. In addition, a writer captured the concepts in a book18. Some of the overall goals included tighter spacing of vehicles, fewer accidents, injuries and fatalities, increased efficiency of roadways, a reduction in the number of highways and lanes needed for travel and reduced long-term cost of highway construction. The general approach was having cars enter a highway with special features. A vehicle would log in at an entrance ramp, and then proceed to the main traffic lane(s). The pavement would incorporate evenly spaced magnet nails. Sensors in the vehicles would detect the nails and computers would keep the car on the path of the nails. When a vehicle reached the desired exit, it would proceed to the exit ramp and leave the automated highway, returning to normal roads and pavements. The spacing of vehicles involved “platoons” or “platooning.” The computers in vehicles would control the spacing for groups of 8 to 25 vehicles, all moving equally spaced at the same speed. In 1960 GM, RCA, and the state of Nebraska created a demonstration using a 400-foot stretch of pavement. The projected cost was $100,000 per mile. In 1991 Congress authorized $650 million in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which intended to develop necessary technologies for AHS. The result was a demonstration stretch of highway at San Diego, CA in 1997 created by the National Automated Highway System Consortium. What happened? There was never any funding to improve highway safety through actual automated highways. The costs were not justified from taxpayer funds. Eventually, new technologies matured and the focus shifted to self-driving, autonomous vehicles using existing highways.

Footnotes & References

 
Footnotes
  • 17 Futurama, General Motors Corporation, New York, 1940.
  • 18 Norman Bel Geddes, Magic Motorways, Random House, 1940.
References
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermodal_Surface_Tr ansportation_Efficiency_Act
  • https://path.berkeley.edu/research/connected-and-aut omated-vehicles/national-automated-highway-systems- consortium
  • https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=Awr EZ7Ziij9dmxkAhAoPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG 5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNl YwNzYw–?p=national+automated+highway+system+ consortium+video+youtube&fr=yhs-pty-pty_converter &hspart=pty&hsimp=yhs-pty_converter
  • Automated Highway System, System Objectives and Characteristics, National Automated High-way System Consortium, Troy, MI, November 3, 1995.
  • Nita Congress, The Automated Highway System, Federal Highway Administration, Summer 1994. !George R. Bierman and John L. Hain, “The Automatic Highway, Mechanical Engineering, July 1996, pp. 18- 21.

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