May 22, 2024


Sapiens Digital

Here’s how big tech wants to destroy traffic

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person, in possession of a car, must want the car in front of them to get out of the sodding way.

But, as you might know if you’ve ever, say, driven a car on a public road, that’s not the way things tend to go. The average UK commute is just shy of an hour a day (i.e to work / school / volunteer kale-growing co-op and back again), and the average Londoner spends nearly an hour and twenty minutes getting from where they woke up that morning to work and then back again.

In New York and Washington, you’re looking at an hour and 10 minutes a day, and an easy hour in Los Angeles – unless you’re caught in congestion, which the New York Times tallied at 104 hours of extra gridlock each year.

And it’s only getting worse, it seems – the TUC found that Brits are spending another 21 hours a year getting to and from their vocations than we did a decade ago. Sure, that only works out to another five minutes a day, but the Top Gear theory of special relativity suggests that another five minutes spent at a dead stop in traffic – or in the sweaty, sooty, cacophonous embrace of the London Underground – can feel like about an eon and a half.

Of course, one easy way to solve congestion, as we’ve discovered, is for a terrible virus to besiege the entire world and force everyone to stay at home. But this, as a solution to traffic, has panned out to be a little on the heavy-handed side of things. It has also created a new problem where erstwhile public transport commuters are unsurprisingly reticent to share enclosed spaces with strangers, so they’re looking to use personal transport (i.e. their cars) instead of the bus or train. Yep, there’s the very real possibility that post-pandemic traffic will be far worse than the pre-COVID slog.

Before this little contagion came along and sucker punched society as a whole, businesses and governments were already exploring options like working from home, four-day working weeks, staggered working hours and congestion pricing. The good parts of that sentence have ramped up for the lucky ones who a) still have secure jobs, b) work in an industry that allows flexibility and c) aren’t currently attached to a ventilator, but a great many workers don’t have the option of working from home or staggering hours.

To finally fix traffic once and for all, we want something new, something avant-garde, something from tech giants who move fast and break things, right? Well…

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