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Negotiating order with a GPS

This morning, I had a low stress commute through rush hour Toronto traffic. I programmed my GPS navigator, and then mostly decided against its recommendations. My commute time yesterday was about 75 minutes, following the GPS recommendations. Today, the drive was about 60 minutes, using the GPS as a lookahead map of unfamiliar streets, including a serendipitous circumnavigation of a park that I hadn’t previously known.

Negotiating order is a way of governing where one or more parties engage with the environment to coordinate action. An alternative way of governing is social contracting towards legal order (or rules-based order), where parties delegate the directions and constraints of social activity to some (higher) authority, and accede to conditions then pre-established.

Self-organizing is another way of describing negotiating order. A contractualist perspective sees parties engaging in mutual benefit schemes, towards achieving some outcomes that they can not achieve on their own.

The congestion of rush hour traffic is a familiar experience for people in cities. Toronto has a record with the highest Commuter Pain Index in the world. How does a GPS (or possibility one of the future autonomous car) impact the decision on routes for a long commute?

Toronto Riverside to Markham

The conventional path from downtown Toronto to Markham is north and then east. An alternative path through arterial city streets is east and then north.

The conventional path is a highway typically clear for the first 10 minutes, placing the driver into a congestion trap. When the driver gets sufficiently frustrated, he or she will attempt a diversion to an alternative road off the limited access highway. Unfortunately, that diversion may also be selected by other drivers, so the pain gets distributed not only to people on the main highway, but also onto all of the nearby arterial roads.

An alternative path, when navigating (mostly) a grid of arterial roads, aims to stay away from the highways, and to route though traffic lights and stop signs. In Toronto, the grid of roads is supplemented by a few diagonal paths, as some roads follow the landscape where Lake Ontario and the rivers were already in place before the roads were paved. Today, upon encountering a construction zone, and then an streetcar breakdown, I had the freedom to move away from the obstacles. The GPS enabled me to see more than a few blocks ahead, so I was able to anticipate and avoid dead ends in unfamiliar territory.

A future in autonomous cars leads to a question as to whether computer programming can (i) only solve a problem in congestion for vehicles with that capability, and/or (ii) dissolve a problem for all drivers, whether they do or not use electronic navigation devices. Russell Ackoff originally published on these distinctions:

This morning, I had a low stress commute through rush hour Toronto traffic. I programmed my GPS navigator, and then mostly decided against its recommendations. My commute time yesterday was about 75 minutes, following the GPS recommendations. Today, the drive was about 60 minutes, using the GPS as a lookahead map of unfamiliar streets, including a serendipitous circumnavigation of a park that I hadn’t previously known.

Negotiating order is a way of governing where one or more parties engage with the environment to coordinate action. An alternative way of governing is social contracting towards legal order (or rules-based order), where parties delegate the directions and constraints of social activity to some (higher) authority, and accede to conditions then pre-established.

Self-organizing is another way of describing negotiating order. A contractualist perspective sees parties engaging in mutual benefit schemes, towards achieving some outcomes that they can not achieve on their own.

The congestion of rush hour traffic is a familiar experience for people in cities. Toronto has a record with the highest Commuter Pain Index in the world. How does a GPS (or possibility one of the future autonomous car) impact the decision on routes for a long commute?

Toronto Riverside to Markham

The conventional path from downtown Toronto to Markham is north and then east. An alternative path through arterial city streets is east and then north.

The conventional path is a highway typically clear for the first 10 minutes, placing the driver into a congestion trap. When the driver gets sufficiently frustrated, he or she will attempt a diversion to an alternative road off the limited access highway. Unfortunately, that diversion may also be selected by other drivers, so the pain gets distributed not only to people on the main highway, but also onto all of the nearby arterial roads.

An alternative path, when navigating (mostly) a grid of arterial roads, aims to stay away from the highways, and to route though traffic lights and stop signs. In Toronto, the grid of roads is supplemented by a few diagonal paths, as some roads follow the landscape where Lake Ontario and the rivers were already in place before the roads were paved. Today, upon encountering a construction zone, and then an streetcar breakdown, I had the freedom to move away from the obstacles. The GPS enabled me to see more than a few blocks ahead, so I was able to anticipate and avoid dead ends in unfamiliar territory.

A future in autonomous cars leads to a question as to whether computer programming can (i) only solve a problem in congestion for vehicles with that capability, and/or (ii) dissolve a problem for all drivers, whether they do or not use electronic navigation devices. Russell Ackoff originally published on these distinctions:

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