Middle-of-the-road conundrum

When I turn on my Tesla ‘Autopilot’, the car sits squarely in the middle of the lane, much more accurately than if I were driving it myself.

It occurred to me to wonder, as more people use these devices, what that might do to the wear and compression of the road surface?

Of course, cars aren’t all the same width, but they don’t differ too much, so perhaps over time we’ll end up running in little tracks; a kind of guided busway, where it’ll be harder to drift accidentally out of your lane even in the absence of electronic assistance.

Or perhaps car manufacturers will be required to introduce a a little randomised ‘drift’ into their algorithms to stop the roads having to be repaired so often?

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Does your Tesla actively avoid potholes?! Maybe Elon could add that as a paid extra?

Alas, no, and this is becoming more of a problem.

I think I’ll pay for the upgrade when it can just fly over them.

“Potholes? Where we’re going, we won’t hit potholes.”

I think tractors and lorries have a lot more to answer for in this regard.

    Indeed, I’m pretty sure I read some research a few years ago that equated road damage to axle weight, and as an exponential function, not linear. In other words, this is likely to become much more of a problem when trucks have autopilot functionality (which then leads into the pothole issue as well, as trucks can enlarge potholes to a size dangerous to cars very quickly, if they don’t avoid them)

Lorries may have a greater impact but EVs are generally heavier than ICE vehicles, there are more cars than lorries and it’s all additive to the damage. Smarter cars could automatically report potholes to the local authority to get them fixed or to a database for routing much like we do already for congestion with Waze etc. the routing could either avoid the road completely, change lanes or adjust within the lane.

My first thought when you mentioned lane position was how on many rural roads you have to ignore the lane markings and hug the hedge to avoid oncoming traffic.

    But remember e-cars are much heavier than ic cars (see articles over multi-storey car parks could be at risk) especially the modern urban tanks. A good thought Quentin

      Yes, as Steve also pointed out. But it’s not always a big difference – my Model 3 is only about 9% heavier than, say, an Audi Avant or VW Passat, and way, way lighter than something like a Discovery.

      I think road wear increases with the cube or even fourth power of the weight, though, so even slight increases are significant, but it also means that most cars have negligible effects when compared to a truck or a bus!

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