Talking to Machines

When you need to communicate to another human being it’s pretty straight forward.

Talking to Machines

Trying to communicate with a machine is more difficult.

Talking to Machines

I know there’s a human being behind the machine. But can’t always see them and their vocabulary is pretty limited. So when I get honked at I’m left to guess what they’re trying to express.

Talking to Machines

While I know most people are decent, I’m too afraid to turn around and engage just in case the last driver is the one behind the wheel.

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  • Vocus Dwabe July 11, 2014   Reply →

    Horn etiquette varies greatly from country to country. In England the merest toot (and ringing a bicycle bell likewise) is taken to mean something like “out of my way, scum!”, which is why you hardly ever do it, whereas here in the south of France motorists blare their horns all the time in a manner which, in Britain, would be taken as a prelude to murder, but which down here just expresses mild frustration. I live on a town square with one-way traffic around it, and at busy times of the day I constantly hear drivers sounding their horns in chorus for ten or twenty seconds at a time in a way that, to English ears, sounds like the beginnings of a civil war, but in fact only means something like “if it’s not too much trouble, monsieur, we would be grateful if you would cease chatting with that rather pretty little vendeuse in the chemist’s shop and move your vehicle, which is blocking the street. If you don’t mind…”

    However, French motorists never sound their horn to alarm cyclists, which is very common in the UK.

    • dragonfrog July 28, 2014  

      Similarly, when I was in Germany, I found folks generally rang their bike bells before rounding a corner on a bike or multi-use path, just in case there’s someone coming the other way.

      Here in Canada, we tend to prefer the invigorating adrenaline rush of the split-second swerve-curse-brake maneuver.

  • highwayman July 12, 2014   Reply →

    When I drive a tractor-trailer (18-wheeler or articulated lorry), I have access to two horns:

    1) the stereotypical and very loud air-horn,

    2) and a regular, merely tooting, city-horn that every motor-vehicle has.

    In that spirit, I had two signaling devices on my handlebars at one point: the bicycle bell for polite signaling, and an air-horn for the cars whose drivers were blasting their car-radio. Said air-horn is made by Air Zound — battery not needed.

    For cars to communicate with vulnerable road uses, they should have two signalling devices as well:

    1) The Car Horn as usual;

    2) and chimes or a bell for polite signalling.

    Two signalling devices for different purposes on every vehicle would go further in improving communication with each other.

    • Vocus Dwabe July 13, 2014  

      There is much in what you say: especially now that we’re seeing more electric cars on the streets – but not hearing them, because they’re pretty well silent and are liable to creep up behind you on a bike without your being aware of it. Perhaps they should have to play some gentle little tinkly tune as they manoeuvre in city streets: anything at all so long as it’s not Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”.

      No, on seconds thoughts we ought to scrap that idea and just have them emit a gentle bird-twittering sound or wind-chimes or something: the sort of neutral “Whale Music of the Andes” stuff they play in lifts. About forty years ago there was a vogue in the UK for car horns that played tunes: usually “Colonel Bogey” or something equally crass. These were so indescribably irritating that they were eventually made illegal, in order to prevent an epidemic of murders, and the drivers had to make do instead with a sign saying “I am a self-advertising cretin”.

  • fred_dot_u July 13, 2014   Reply →

    Vocus Dwabe, I am a cyclist and an electric vehicle owner. The vehicles are not silent when underway at any appreciable speed, although they are much quieter. When my wife returns from work, I can distinguish her vehicle from others, because I hear only tire noise as she stops and starts at the intersection out of sight from me. We have installed the equivalent of trolley bells in our EVs in order to alert pedestrians of our approach, in a more acceptable manner than sounding the horn.

    As a cyclist, I am on the alert myself, for drivers who are not, of course, but also on alert for suggestions that remove responsibility from the driver to operate safely. Placing mandatory sounding devices in any vehicle reduces the responsibility of the driver to maintain due care near cyclists. There are too many official efforts to require such devices without the recognition that the driver and the cyclist share the responsibility to use the road safely.

    Noise makers for EVs are not the only project or program that resembles this responsibility-removal or responsibility-reduction, but it’s valid in the context of your post.

    For drivers who are not sufficiently observant, I have an AirZound installed, as well as a pleasant bell for pedestrians.

    Bring on the autonomous automobile!

  • Sam Moody July 14, 2014   Reply →
  • Mr Butts July 28, 2014   Reply →

    Love this. Totally how I feel. Hard to hold back that middle finger when I hear a honk.

    Honks are one of the worst thing. They can turn a nice happy day into a bad day.

    The worst of honks degrade a place. Just as trash in the park can make it a bad place to be. The angry noises of cars can make a place worse.

    I have flipped off buddies honking to say hello on the street. I still think they deserve it.

    I think cars should either be converted to

    1) have horns as loud inside the car as outside it.
    2) Horns can only play jingles from Mexican hat dance.

  • Shawn August 17, 2014   Reply →

    In DuPage County (suburban area quite distant from Chicago where the only through routes are arterial roads), some drivers think NO BIKE belongs on the street. I bike near the curb (because it’s safer), and the motorists roar by at about 30-40 mph while yelling something at me. I have no idea what they scream because, as I said, they’re speeding by me. I call it ‘doppler speak’ because the pitch of the sound varies as they speed away. It’s funny because they actually think I can hear them.

    • Ross Lindgren August 17, 2014  

      When I get the chance, I tell them: “I can hear your engine just fine. I don’t need your horn. Thank you.”

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