Synchronized Driving Is Totally Cool; It Could Even Be Helpful


Stunt drivers perform some fancy moves at China's Shanghai International Circuit, but synchronized driving soon could serve a purpose that's a lot more helpful to us everyday drivers. VCG via Getty Images
Stunt drivers perform some fancy moves at China's Shanghai International Circuit, but synchronized driving soon could serve a purpose that's a lot more helpful to us everyday drivers. VCG via Getty Images

When you think synchronized driving, you probably think sleek commercials, stunt drivers and perhaps a little "Fast and Furious" movie magic that would allow groups of cars to seemingly harmonize psychically. See exhibit A from BMW:

And it's true. Synchronized driving can be a form of precision driving that's akin to a much-rehearsed (and awesome) stunt routine. But as Ben Bowlin and Scott Benjamin point out in this episode of CarStuff, the future of synchronized driving could yield much more than cool ads and sweet action films.

Once upon a time, car companies like Hyundai had synchronized driving teams that were designed to blow your mind and remind you that even modest vehicle models could do amazing things in the right (well-coordinated) hands. We're talking people who could drive vertically on two wheels while the passenger changed a tire on their side of the car (see 1:55 in this YouTube video). These kind of signature moves haven't been just for fancy car commercials either, as evidenced by a team of Isuzu drivers who currently perform events around Australia.

But as technological advances like autonomous vehicles become more in demand, synchronized driving has taken on another meaning. The Senseable City Lab at MIT has been studying vehicles that have communicating sensors that might allow them to rather politely integrate into traffic without heeding traffic lights or signals. By having the cars "talk" to a central system and each other, these slot-based intersections could create a traffic pattern that's much more efficient than the old hurry-up-and-wait light system.

This kind of synchronized driving system could have some extraordinary ripples. Consider, for instance, that folks who don't have the typical reflexes or eyesight required for driving in traffic might be able to get a limited license if vehicles are able to communicate with a larger network to drive themselves. On the other hand, there are reasonably practical concerns about an internet-based system going down. Even one of the cars having a communication failure might cause extraordinary chaos, just like we might see when our glossy version of synchronized driving goes wrong.

So join Scott and Ben in this episode of the CarStuff podcast as they talk up some of the more famous instances of synchronized driving for commercial use and delve into a few of the cooler possibilities that synchronized driving could bring to a car, or network of cars, near you.