I had a fairly typical drive home last Friday—I was cutoff twice and almost rear-ended. The expressions I saw on the other drivers' faces, and the spittle in particular, were a clear indication that road rage had them in its grip. Thankfully, no one followed me home, threw a caustic substance in my face, and blinded me temporarily—as happened to some hapless driver in Minnesota recently. But that episode did get me thinking that something ought to be done to prevent road-rage aggression and its potentially murderous consequences.
I've read a host of articles describing products that can detect whether a driver appears to be drunk, or is on the verge of falling asleep. So why can't some clever engineers invent a road-rage sensor? The number of potential designs is nearly endless.
WORK Ken is driving East along a back road at a steady 30 miles per hour. To his dog, who is seated in the passenger seat enjoying the scenery, a steady wind seems to be blowing from the South. When Ken turns due North onto a freeway and speeds up to 60 mph, the wind seems to be blowing from the Northwest. The actual wind direction is from the:
E) None of the above
See answer below. Source: Adapted from the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination , Eugene L. Boronow, Prentice Hall Press, 1986
One approach might involve a reverse heads-up display with a scanner on the windshield. Although the degree of bulge of the eyeball might be a better indicator, the system relies on eye color to detect road rage. The change in color, from normal to flaming red, is electronically tied to the engine controller. Built-in software detects and prevents any sudden delta in vehicle response—including a high-speed chase to another driver's residence—due to the driver's aggressive behavior. This design would effectively prevent a driver's road-rage behavior from being transferred to his car.
An alternative road-rage detector design could involve audio, using the radio to pick up a driver's various rantings, expletives, and the like. The recording would be cross-checked against an acoustic database to determine the driver's mental condition (agitated, angered, enraged, wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation).
For drivers deemed "enraged" or higher, the system activates a flashing light on the dash panel, signaling the driver that he or she is behaving like an idiot and should calm down. The driver is allowed a five-second cool-down period. If he or she cannot respond in a normal speaking voice at that point, the system automatically calls the driver on their cell phone directing them to calm down. The voice of HAL from the movie 2001 has been suggested as it has a soothing effect, until the fifth time it tells you to cool it, then it has just the opposite effect. Once a driver learns that the only way to shut HAL off is to regain composure, he or she will start driving more calmly.
One drawback of any technological solution is the time period that would be required to equip all new vehicles and retrofit old vehicles. It's actually a major hurdle when you consider that drivers of older-model cars have little incentive to adopt new technology. After all, they have less to lose if they crumple their remaining fender.
An alternative to a technological solution would involve the federal government designating a bimonthly rage holiday. Certain roads would be off-limits to anyone with a normal blood pressure reading.
The options are endless. But until somebody comes up with a really good way to eliminate road rage, I guess I'll be sticking to the back roads.