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Nadworney: Digital Driving

02/22/10 5:55PM By Rich Nadworny
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(HOST) Commentator Rich Nadworny has discovered that his new car - is changing the way he drives.

(NADWORNY) I recently traded in my old reliable, fairly efficient car for a new hybrid. While I'd been longing for one for a while, I have to admit that I'm surprised and delighted in how this hybrid car has changed my driving habits.  Because after two months, I drive very differently than I've driven my entire life. The question is while this might change me, are our roads ready for this change?

We all have learned to drive using the same measure of success: speed. Most of us drive primarily by gauging our progress with our Mile Per Hour. However the hybrid now gives us a different metric: Miles Per Gallon, along with an array of digital displays to measure our progress and success.

And it's not just affecting me. My young son, who used to urge me to pass as many cars as possible on the highway, now focuses on whether or not I'm using too much gas and he protests loudly when I do!

I find that driving successfully with my hybrid means keeping my acceleration and complete stops to a minimum. Any time I have to gas up for speed, my MPGs decrease. Any time I can maintain a consistent speed, my MPGs go up. Moving away from acceleration, though, flies in the face of tried and true auto marketing. You know those ads that tout a cars ability to go from 0 to 60 in a few seconds. Well, I'm not interested anymore.

Another problem is that we've designed most of our roads for short bursts of acceleration followed by complete stops. I've always loved roundabouts and now I realize how much gas they actually save. It's a pretty efficient system. All of those stop signs and stoplights, on the other hand, seem pretty inefficient to me. They certainly do a number on my MPGs.

I wonder if we'll ever adapt our roads to this new way of driving. I'm not optimistic. As a country, we're not good at adapting ourselves to being efficient; we're much better at growing. 200 years ago, when we ran out of land, we went west. When we ran out of west, we went overseas. When the auto industry was in trouble in the 70s and 80s, Japan responded by building their cars with more efficient processes, while we responded by developing the SUV.

On the driving end, just look at the problem New York mayor Bloomberg ran into when he tried to implement policies used in London and Stockholm to reduce inner city traffic. We have, however, implemented the EZ Pass at toll booths. While trying to solve a payment or queue problem, we've actually made the driving more efficient.

In the mean time, I'm stuck driving a digital car on analog roads. You'd think that we Vermonters could do a little better, at least I do. In the mean time, don't honk at me after the light turns green. I'm not messing with my MPGs!

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Rich Nadworny on-line at VPR-dot-net.
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