Good luck keeping pace with the robots.
One of the many benefits of driverless cars is that they can just about tail each other, bumper to bumper, without fear of collision. The beauty of such concrete cuddling is that it will serve as a de facto expansion of the highway system. If you can pack more cars into the same space, you not only potentially improve travel times but you reduce the (often misguided) urge to widen roads.
Of course that assumes some error-prone human driver doesn’t come along and muck things up.
Hence the title of a super fun new keyboard-based traffic game: “Error-Prone” (spotted by Alex Davies at Wired). Playing couldn’t be simpler. A screen shows 26 autonomous cars driving in a loop—one for each letter of the alphabet. Up to that many humans can take control of the cars by pressing the corresponding letter. But doing so is the first step in the inevitable path toward traffic flow inefficiency, at best, and a massive pileup, at worst.
Game creators Peter Cardwell-Gardner and Mark Backler explain:
The end result illustrates perfectly how self driving cars are vastly superior to their human counterparts in terms of traffic grid lock, efficiency and avoiding road accidents.
Error-Prone obviously isn’t a perfect proxy for the congestion benefits of driverless cars. Humans may metaphorically spend their lives driving in circles, but practically speaking traffic is far more complicated than this alphabet-loop suggests. That said, the game does loosely capture the principles behind “shockwave” traffic jams—essentially the ripple effect that occurs from an imperfect driver making an imperfect maneuver.
There’s only one way to beat the game, according to Cardwell-Gardner and Backler: “not play at all.” But where’s the fun in that?