Idea: The Tesla Hitch

Idea: The Tesla Hitch

Hi everyone!

So I am a big commuter, driving on the 401 everyday here in Canada. The 401 is the busiest roadway in North America which means a LOT of congestion. Constant stopping and starting.

I have an idea that might help ease this pain. I am no engineer but this is my big idea.

Tesla cars have a magnetic hitch on the front and back of the cars that perhaps can slide out just like the handles.
Other Tesla cars can attach to one another to create a convoy/train. With the magnetic hitch Tesla cars would be able to share power, possibly prolonging the need to charge. When someone would like to leave the convoy they can reverse the magnetic charge and get off at their desired exit. Those in the middle of the convoy would get to sit back and relax but they will be quite dependant on the guy in the front not crashing into anybody.

I feel like treating cars more like trains would reduce the amount of minor fender benders which end up causing even more of a backlog.

Let me know what you all think!

PorfirioR | 09. Oktober 2013

I had a somewhat similar idea that did not involve any physical connection between cars.

Some intrepid graduate student might want to take this on, since I don't really have the time these days. I have been contemplating conducting research on the subject of signal propagation in vehicle traffic. There have been traffic engineering studies conducted in that topic. However, I thought there might be a fresh angle when looking at traffic as a communications medium.
This "traffic shockwave" experiment is part of what gave me the idea:

Some people in this forum might have heard of Claude Shannon, who conducted a lot of research in communications and is considered the father of information theory. One of the concepts that his works introduced is that of "surprisal".

What I wanted to explore, and what I have long suspected, is that drivers amplify the sensory signals they receive from traffic. For example, the car in front of a driver hits the brakes unexpectedly (or simply the break light comes on). Since there is no immediate input telling the driver exactly how much (if any) deceleration to expect, the driver experiences a form of "surprisal" and must amplify the braking decision. The driver behind that one does the same, etc., etc., and 10 cars behind we are at a complete stop.

That form of surprisal is what, in my opinion, creates the mystery traffic jams that we see every rush hour, where there is no accident or mechanical breakdown involved.

I believe that, with a clever integration of adaptive cruise control, collision detection/avoidance, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication, a congested highway could move cars continuously at a much higher capacity. In other words, you could turn the entire 401 freeway into a virtual train, even if cars are from different manufacturers.

Geert.Snijders | 09. Oktober 2013

I'm all for a magnetic hitch, although not a longitudal(BrianH spellcheck!), but rather a lateral hitch. This can be accomplished in 2 ways, either:
- make narrow vehicles that can lane-split at low velocity and as such double the capacity in the bottleneck(s) of the 401. Not really Tesla style, so
- allow up to 3 hitchers to enter your Tesla, shouldn't be too hard to magnetically hitch them into your car. Effectively quadrupling the capacity of the 401 and energy efficiency of your car. Without any technological R&D, upgrades, retrofitting and above all: REPRICING! ;D

As usual about 95+% of all vehicles have but one occupant. Every lane in a highway bottleneck has 2 spaces (seats) next to eachother. Plus 2 passenger seats directly behind. Actually using just a % of these extra seats will greatly add to the utilization of the max capacity (@bottleneck) of the road and thereby resolve any congestion.
Conclusion: congestion should be measured in witdh (utilization of bottleneck), not length (row behind bottleneck).

Energy efficiency is measured in % well-to-wheel. For ICE this is about 12%. A mere 12% of the chemcial energy of the crude oil actually gets you from A to B. Plus a 1500kg car. Say you plus baggage weigh 150kg, then about 10% of the mass transported is effective. 90% is overhead. So about 1.2% of the initial energy is used to get you+baggage from A to B. Ooops...

For Tesla, the efficiency is better: about 30% well-to-wheel. For getting you plus a 2150kg car from A to B. So almost 2% of the initial energy contained by the natural gas, used to generate electricity, gets you+baggage from A to B...

Conclusion: hitch those trusted (members only) carpoolers into your dreamcar through the onboard and smartphone apps (update hereby requested!) and add to your status by allowing the less fortunate to enjoy your priviliges (for a short while) and increasing your transport energy efficiency and road utilization up to 4-fold.

Wow! Sorry about that, got carried away. Google for details: whitepaper well to wheel tesla 2009.

Enjoy! Geert

Geert.Snijders | 09. Oktober 2013

What you describe is called sequential dependency in logistics. Used to calculate certainty to make a production due date (Tesla could use this!)

EG. if you have 5 operations in a sequential production line and each operation has 95% certainty to meet it's run-time, the overall certainty is not 95%. But .95x.95x.95x.95x.95=.77 or 77%.
This number can then be used to calculate the extra finished goods stock or production capacity to be able to meet the production delivery time.

Consider each car on the road an operation and you get the idea of sequential dependency in traffic...

For details: Goldratt Contraints theory.

Enjoy! Geert

Brian H | 09. Oktober 2013


Magnetic hitching and mutual repulsion between cars would require massive fields, very wasteful IMO.