The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Budd McLaughlin

May 2, 2012

Car communication system should be explored (2-22-12)


Consumer Reports magazine announced its support this week for a new system that will allow cars to communicate with each other.

The system would transmit alerts from one vehicle to another if a car hydroplanes, has to slam on its brakes, is engaged in a high-speed pursuit with authorities, spontaneously bursts into flames, etc. I’m not actually certain about those last two, but it would be a good idea.

I’ve often wondered why we are unable to communicate with other vehicles on the road, considering the high-tech world we live in. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, CB radios allowed truckers to communicate with each other and broadcast information about crashes, road closures and which truck stop had the best cup of coffee.

CB radios also allowed juvenile delinquents to ride roughshod over the airwaves and give false reports on “Smokeys” and tell fart jokes, not that I would know anything about such hijinks.

There have been a number of times, however, I’ve been behind a vehicle on the road and wanted a way to communicate with the driver. Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation.

How many times have you been behind a driver who’s had his or her blinker on for the last five miles? They’re clearly oblivious to the “tick, tick, tick” sound of the signal and you’re left with the overwhelming fear they’re going to slam on their brakes and turn at any moment.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply type in the tag number of the car in front of you and say, “Hey Bub, turn off your #$@!%*# blinker!”

Or you could type in the person’s tag number and tell them their gasoline door is open and their gas cap is hanging out. You could also ask them why they’re driving 45 mph in a 60 mph zone or why they’re oblivious to the sound of their exhaust system grinding against the pavement. If you pass an attractive driver, you could ask if they’re single, in a relationship or outdoorsy.

Of course, it would be up to the driver to decide if they wanted to accept a call from another vehicle. You could simply just keep the driver-to-driver communication system turned off. And in a world where we already have too many driver distractions, it would have to be a hands-free device.

Drivers could also choose to sign up for such a service through the state and pay a monthly subscription fee. In order to keep personal information, well … personal, you could just submit your tag number, which would essentially become your phone number to other drivers.

In addition to the aforementioned examples, I can think of other car or road issues I’d like to be informed about. I once drove a pickup truck that rode so rough that I didn’t know I had a flat tire. A female driver behind me had to drive beside me on a two-lane road to inform me. That was mighty nice of her, but also dangerous.

A driver-to-driver communication system would have allowed her to dial me up and say, “You’ve got a flat tire, dummy!”

There are considerable drawbacks, however. It could allow one driver to harass another just for the sake of meanness, which could lead to a higher incidence of road rage.

Besides, it would be hard to give “the finger” to a bad driver if we’re allowed to communicate electronically. Flipping off another driver while laying on the horn is one of the oldest and effective forms of roadway communication.

I’m sure most of you have seen those bumper stickers on the backs of cars or trucks that ask, “Like My Driving? Call 1-800-blah-blah.” After being cut off recently by a truck carrying one of those stickers, I thought about calling up the company and telling them, “Quite frankly, I did not care for the antics of one of your drivers.”

Having a vehicle-to-vehicle communication system would have allowed me to communicate with the jerk directly, at which time I would have asked if he obtained his license from a box of Cracker Jacks. Depending on his answer, my query could have been followed up by right-of-way fisticuffs, imminent arrest by authorities and the publishing of my name in the arrest reports.

It’s true this vehicle-to-vehicle communication system may need some tweaking before it’s dropped on the general public, but I’ve had far worse ideas. The next time you want to tell the left-lane slowpoke to switch lanes, you’ll see I’m really a genius.


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Budd McLaughlin


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