THE sleek two-seater merges into the freeway traffic and nudges
its way over to the express lane.
Settling into the flow of Monday morning rush hour, the driver
slips his hands off the steering wheel, reaches into his briefcase,
and pulls out the morning paper. Opening to the sports section, he
settles back to read as the car races along at a comfortable 100
miles an hour.
A scenario for disaster? Certainly, on today's highways. But
sometime in the not-too-distant future, this may be a perfectly
Known as Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems (IVHS) or "smart
cars, smart highways," advanced electronics in tomorrow's
automobiles could vastly improve the "productivity" of highways
around the world, visionaries say. Such systems could pack more cars
on densely-crowded roadways, improve fuel economy, and reduce
The largest-scale IVHS system now in use is Berlin's Ali-Scout -
produced by Siemens AG as a navigation aid.
"Get in the right hand lane," the male, faintly metallic-sounding
voice drones from a hidden speaker. "Make a left turn," it commands,
an arrow echoing the order on a small video screen mounted on the
dashboard. "You have reached your destination," the voice concludes,
as the hotel comes into view.
Installed in a fleet of 700 Berlin vehicles, Ali-Scout Uses a
combination of visual cues and verbal warnings to warn motorists of
traffic tie-ups, or guide them to unfamiliar destinations.
Ali-Scout's in-car hardware is linked by infrared signal to 2,000
"beacons" around the city. In turn, they are tied to a central
traffic monitoring station where a mainframe computer digests
information about city road conditions. Should a main artery be
blocked by an accident, the system will automatically detour
Ali-Scout cars onto alternate routes.
The first IVHS program in the United States is Project
Pathfinder, which will soon go into use along a 10-mile stretch of
California's crowded Santa Monica Freeway. The cars used in the
Pathfinder experiment will be equipped with a video map capable of
displaying all local roads in precise detail. Should there be a
tie-up, an alternate route will be highlighted on the
dashboard-mounted video screen.
Although Ali-Scout and Pathfinder offer little more than route
guidance, future IVHS systems will take on more responsibilities.
Chrysler's Millenium concept vehicle uses TV cameras to eliminate
blind spots, and its radar-controlled collision avoidance system can
actually slam on the brakes before a driver would react. …