Improve road transport to cut costs and improve safety

MW Marc Whinery Public Seen by 124


There are plenty of innovations out there that will help improve traffic on the roads we have now, so that we don't have to build more.

Getting 1-2 more cars through every light cycle from more accurate and informative lights would have a huge impact on traffic (I can spend hours explaining queue theory and its impact on traffic engineering, but I'd rather not here).

Many small changes like this would improve traffic flow much more than paving more land. It's cheaper and more effective.

But, the NZTA prevents innovation. It's a bunch of road-engineers. That's why I've stated elsewhere that the NZTA should be disbanded, and re-formed as an NZTA (doing only, no policy set), and an NZTI (institute), hosted at Massey University (as an example, could be anywhere), that is tasked with the research and policy for transportation.

When you separate the ideas from the doers, you get more innovative and risky ideas. The doers only do what they know, even if they know it doesn't work. Like the billions the government will spend and send to Auckland to build more of what's already there to get traffic that's worse than today, at extreme cost.

There was no transportation policy in the tiny number of policies presented for the last election. But one of "use innovation" would be in line with our tech-roots, and not fall in line with Nationals "More Roads" plan, nor Labour's "buses only" plan (which green likes, as green is "Labour-lite for those that don't like the Labour leaders").

Also, we can do some things with no cost that will still shake things up. Work with Google to get Google cars here, and use those for rental cars, so we'll have fewer tourists killing Kiwis on our roads. Google needs more testing in real-world, and we can pass laws to entice them to come here, so we can be first adopters.

There are 1000 other things I could list here that are cheap/free that would improve transportation. It's just that nobody on the executive listened before the last election. Is anyone listening now?


pilotfever Tue 24 Feb 2015 11:25PM

@marcwhinery I enjoyed discussing smart highways with you before the election.
I have also been following, and contributing to the hyperloop project, which Elon Musk wants to build as a test track in Texas and eventually put on Mars... and there are these new elevators that are supposed to go sideways in buildings...
What do you think about Google or Apple autonomous vehicles in New Zealand? Doing anything to the NZTA is going to cause a lot of opposition... but what doesn't :)


Colin England Wed 25 Feb 2015 2:45AM

That’s why I’ve stated elsewhere that the NZTA should be disbanded, and re-formed as an NZTA (doing only, no policy set), and an NZTI (institute), hosted at Massey University (as an example, could be anywhere), that is tasked with the research and policy for transportation.

So, basically a Ministry Of Works (MoW) to build the infrastructure and the research and development into an independent funding system that supports research at public and private institutions with the government owning the results of that research. It's even possible that that independent funding system have it's own research labs but I don't see any need for that.

This, BTW, is how the US built it's technological edge. Lots and lots of government directed funding into what the government thought would best develop its society and industry. NASA is a good example of this structure. Basically, the US government picked the winners and the US won. We did similar with our old DSIR.

The Entrepreneurial State is very much worth reading on this.


Marc Whinery Wed 25 Feb 2015 4:20AM

@colinengland I've done work with the TTI in the US. The NHTSA is the "doing" arm, and was never the deciding arm. So there was no separation. They are the "doing" arm of the FAA (the FAA will declare something an incident, and send the NHTSA to investigate, but the NHTSA doesn't investigate unless asked). The government will mandate airbags and safety standards, and the NHTSA will enforce that, but when the rules are not exact, the NHTSA will go outside to organizations like the TTI and commission "private" studies (private having to be in quotes because TTI is a public, but non-federal, institution). Similar as how NASA uses JPL as a close partner, where JPL is associated with the California Institute of Technology. NASA uses the university system to do things it can't justify in its budget, and to help with the research and design and such. Same as the TTI (and others) for the NHTSA (TTI being associated with a university as well, one I attended). As we should do here.

When the doers are the same as the thinkers, there's no thinking. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When all you have is road engineers, every traffic problem can be solved with more roads.

DSIR sounds like DARPA (the US government research arm that invented lots of things, including The Internet). Though DSIR sounds more theoretical than I'm talking about. You know the concrete barriers between sides of a motorway? They have multiple angles. I've watched a large lorry slam into one, as the TTI worked on testing and design for the best design of them. You can thank the TTI for effective concrete barriers. And New Jersey. No idea what NJ had in their creation, but I've always heard them called "Jersey barriers" when I was in the US.

The US built technology by having research Centrally Planned then outsourced to local forms for research. The research isn't done by the government, so much as planned. The downside is that inventions from the government money lead to privately held patents. If the government pays for it, the people should own the patent.