As part of the Swiss National Cleanup Day and World Cleanup, I removed all the trash from a stretch of road and a patch of forest here in Langenthal. Just 7 days later, I went for a walk along the same route. Litter had already returned. I picked up 12 pieces of trash. 12 pieces in 7 days is 1.7 pieces per day. If it continues at that rate, there will be 625 pieces of trash here one year from now. But instead of trying to figure out if that is an improvement or thinking of ways to bring an improvement, I found my mind wandering to a different topic… AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES.
Yes, autonomous vehicles, another one of those things that is just gonna happen. These things will be outfitted with so many sensors and so much intelligence that not only will traffic accidents be a thing of the past, but they will be able to anticipate when you will fart and will engage preemptive countermeasures.
Since these vehicles are still in development, I have a request for the development teams. I would like you smart gals and guys to include sensors which will detect when one of the passengers throws trash out the window. Then there can be a variety of responses based on local laws and culture.
In Singapore, the windows will close, the doors will lock and the car will drive to the nearest police station. That would not go over so well here in Switzerland. The Swiss litter protocol could be 3 steps of escalation.
1st LITTER OFFENSE: The car stops, turns around, and drives back to the place where the trash landed. It waits there until the litterbug steps out and picks up the trash. As soon as the litter and passenger are safely back in the vehicle, the journey continues.
2nd LITTER OFFENSE: The same thing happens. In addition, the car notifies the local police and a fine is issued. All automatically, of course.
3rd LITTER OFFENSE: All of the above happens. In addition, the windows remain closed while the litterbug is present in the car. Or maybe, the car will simply refuse to drive while this person is in it.
Punishment-only systems do not work so well. So, let’s put some rewards in there as well. The car could upload a current trash map. LITTERATI, for example. Let’s say the passenger is running out of miles or credit for whatever. She/he loads the map, drives to the nearest trashy point and cleans it up. The vehicle’s sensors will know how much additional stuff is now in the car and will apply credits to the account of the passenger’s choice. The passenger and the vehicle can negotiate over the value of the trash. They can have fun with it.
Imagine 10’s of millions of cleanup cars out there. Bring it on!