On Minimum Speeds

In my last post, I mentioned that minimum speeds may be an ongoing area that needs to be addressed legally (and societally).  Many of the following thoughts are derived from several experiences I have with the German Autobahn.  When I travelled on the autobahn, I was in an underpowered Mitsubishi Lancer.  I mean no ill toward the Lancer in general; the car served me well, even fantastically, considering its price.  By the time I was in it, it had been used hard, and was usually full of people.

When on the autobahn, we would be pushing our little car as fast as it could possibly go, sometimes, as fast as 75 MPH.  At that speed, we were rarely in the left lane.  On the few occasions that we were, the same thing always happened.  Far off, in the rear view mirror, our driver would see a pair of head lights blink on and off.  That was the universal signal (or at least the European one) to “get out of the fast lane, you do not belong here.”  There was absolutely nothing negative about it, just a sign that a faster car was approaching.  In a very Teutonic way, the expected response was for the less capable vehicle to leave the fast lane.  If you were not going to proceed at his speed, please proceed out of his way.

Since this highway did not have speed limits, a few things happened.  Some of these can be expected to be replicated in an era of more automation.

  1. There were vehicles with differing speeds on the road.  We happened to be going as fast as our little car could take us.  I anticipate this will be replicated in the future.  There will be very fast cars.  There will be reasonably fast cars.  There may also be slow cars.  The anticipated speeds may be covered in another post later.
  2. There was a mechanism to direct the slower vehicles into the proper lane.  Blinking lights worked well for us, and could be used among a mixed population of autonomous, automated, and “regular” vehicles.  I fully expect that additional wireless (and invisible) communications will also occur in the  future.
  3. There was an effective minimum speed.  While not actually law, we felt social pressure to go at least 65 MPH.

I suspect that most roadways in the US that would seem to need fast traffic would also have multiple lanes.  Those multiple lanes would permit the varying of speeds, just as German Autobahns have lanes travelling at different effective speeds today.

Where I think there could be a little more friction, is on those roads where there are both fast and slow “regular” cars, and fast and slow autonomous cars.  The combination of 4 types may be difficult to utilize fully.  Fortunately, I believe that the overlap of types will be fairly short-lived.

As I’m posting this, I realize that I’ll need to follow this up with a post on “actual” speeds.  There is much more to come, I promise!


One thought on “On Minimum Speeds

  1. The idea of a vehicle itself being the limiting factor for speed is almost a foreign concept for me. In my experience, it is usually the driver (for example, the stereotypical “granny” behind the wheel or an out-of-towner unfamiliar with the road) causing a car to go slower than others on the road. It would seem that this experience is not universal, and as the automated car becomes more widespread the varying speeds of vehicles will depend on the cars themselves. Purchasing a “fast” car may actually become more appealing with the advent of autonomous vehicles because we will have more opportunities to utilize the extra power and speed.


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