This article is a follow-up to one I did in June; please read it for essential background: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/driverless-cars.html.
Last week's Oxford Times had a front page article on guided buses. Several traffic and transport officials in Oxfordshire County Council have suggested installing a guided busway in the area; it is to be based on the
model. The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway is the longest in the world, stretching
from Huntingdon railway station to Trumpington, a suburb south of Cambridge.
The route includes two guided sections altogether making up sixteen miles. A
guided bus is a passenger vehicle powered by a conventional diesel or electric
engine with normal wheels and chassis etc. It looks outwardly like any other
bus, except that it can be steered by external means. There are several
different guided bus systems; the most common is kerb-guidance in which the bus
has a second set of wheels mounted horizontally which rest on a track running
along the side of specialized carriageways, so steering the vehicle along the
lane. In this way guided buses resemble, in role and function, light railways
or trams, except guided buses are far more versatile because they can retract
the guide-wheels and drive on ordinary roads as well, where they are manually
controlled by the driver using a steering wheel like any other bus. There are
more sophisticated guided bus systems in which the bus has no extra wheels and
no track; instead an electronic optical system follows a painted line on the
road. In this way guided bus lanes have no special infrastructure and are
essentially exactly the same as ordinary roads; they can even double up as
them. I'm in no doubt that these vehicles represent a transition between the
personally-controlled and the driverless transport that I discuss in the background
article above. Like driverless cars, guided buses have advantages; they are
faster, safer, easier to use and more fuel efficient. It's perfectly
understandable that the planners at Oxon County Council are considering
installing them. However, the general trend they represent does concern me for
the reasons I describe in the background article. I know a bus is not personal
transport anyway, but it is a way of testing and introducing the technology
necessary to manipulate personal transport. What works for buses could just as
easily work for private cars; maybe even motorcycles. We're handing over more
and more of our individual means of travel to higher authorities which gives
them more and more power to monitor and control our movements as they see fit.
See here for the website of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: http://thebusway.info/.