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Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

Posted November 03, 2017 8:00 AM by BestInShow

Driving in Greece is not for amateurs or the faint of heart. I learned this first-hand on a recent vacation with Mr. Best in Show. After a cruise through the Cyclades and the Dodecanese we rented a Toyota Auris hybrid and set off for Olympia, Delphi, and Kalambaka. Driving conditions--spectacular cloudless weather—could not have been better. The roads were in excellent condition, and signage included transliterated place name information. We were confident that our 1000-kilometer trek would be worry free.

Winding road in Crete. Photo credit: Maxpixel/CC0

However. Our previous driving experiences in Tuscany and Provence did not prepare us to share the road with drivers who generally treat "no passing" zones as challenges and speed limits as nonexistent. This, despite the fact that drivers—at least drivers who have properly-equipped cars—can’t claim ignorance at least about speed limits.

When I took over the driving I noticed a number below the graphic indicating whether the vehicle battery was charging or discharging. Sometimes the number showed as white on a red circle; other times it was red on white. Sometimes it disappeared altogether. Mr. BIS pointed out that this mystery number was the speed limit. Sure enough, our smart Auris somehow knew the speed limit.

The standard method for detecting speed limits is simple enough. An onboard camera scans the verge. When software recognizes a speed-limit sign, the numerical limit magically appears on the dashboard. Neural networks provide the intelligence. I had speculated that the sign itself was "broadcasting" the speed limit to a receiver in the car. The camera makes more sense. Toyota claims that its technology recognizes signs that comply with those approved by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Yes, there is an international convention on road traffic. No, the United States is not a signatory; most of Europe and parts of Asia and South America have signed on.

The technology which makes this happen has been around for several years and was proposed in the first decade of the 21st century. Cars sold in Europe have this capability along with other components of an ADAS system. Since signs are standard, and the sign-reading cameras appear to be generally available, why didn’t our rentals (a Fiat and a Peugot in Italy and France) have this equipment? I ran across a couple of research articles about ADAS penned by Italian researchers, yet as far as I can tell, Italy does not require that cars sold in the country have any of these technologies.

Diagram showing how car-mounted camera captures speed-limit data. Photo credit: Toyota Global

After poking around a phenomenal trove of European Union documents on road safety, I failed to find any requirements for specific safety technologies. The EU did establish a 10-year plan to lower traffic fatality rates; participation by individual countries was essentially optional, however. About a year ago the European Commission distributed a document, "A European strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems, a milestone towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility," that sets goals and standards for C-ITS, including specific services for "day 1" implementation—including in-vehicle signage and speed limits. The Commission has set 2019 as its goal for coordinated C-ITS deployment.

Back to Greece, where we found the in-vehicle speed limit displays very useful. Unfortunately, cars are not automatically slowed down to meet the standard. We also came within a gnat’s eyelash of a head-on collision with a speed demon who decided that the No Passing sign did not apply to him. Greek authorities admit that the main barriers to safer roads are lack of both traffic law enforcement and observance. Technology that slows down a speeding car, or stops one from passing two semis and a car in a no-passing zone on an undivided highway … probably not in the immediate future.

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#1

Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:00 AM

Must be great to just drive as fast as you want with no seatbelts, like it was in the old days here.... I would fit right in.... The traffic laws here have become too restrictive and really oppressive...really just a contest to see how much revenue they can collect....

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#2

Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:14 AM

The GPS database of speed limits in the United States is quite good. Requires far less technology/processing than a sign reading camera and works well in all kinds of weather and lighting conditions. Admittedly, there can be a lag in the update of the database when speed limits get changed and not all roads are in the database.

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#3

Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:17 AM

The first time I drove in Germany, I was totally puzzled by the speed limit signs. What does this mean, what the speed limit is not?

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#4
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:18 AM

to a certain degree I'd agree about their source of revenue... but its a rude awakening to come across a car accident where fatalities occurred just minutes after it happened.

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#5
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:18 AM

Maybe you can burn rubber up to 100 clicks?

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#6
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:33 AM

End of speed limit
The general speed limit now applies

Wow they have a lot of different traffic signs in Germany...you probably need to carry a guide around with you...Don't know what "the general speed limit" is...

http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/zeichen.shtml

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#7
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:48 AM

Driving fast and being a bad driver are two different things....I've never caused an accident...There are people that shouldn't be driving and will cause accidents regardless of the speed limits...most, if not all, of the decline in traffic deaths can be attributed to safer vehicles and better highways....mostly better brakes, tires and suspension...In truth it was never that high to begin with....

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#8
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:58 AM

I was thinking more about the seatbelt requirement. I myself, feel uncomfortable not wearing one.

I've also notice a large number of drivers (that not only falls under bad drivers, but should not be driving at all), that do not know the rules of the road. And one does need rules for the road, so that when you are in you lane taking a sharp curve that distinctly shows it is a no passing zone (two solid yellow lines) that you do not come upon on coming cars with one car trying to pass in this No Passing Zone.

Other then that, yes, I pretty much agree with you.

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#9
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 2:14 PM
Average number of people per day that receive a speeding ticket112,000
Total annual number of people who receive speeding tickets41,000,000
Total percentage of drivers that will get a speeding ticket this year20.6 %
Average cost of a speeding ticket (including fees)$152
Total paid in speeding tickets per year$6,232,000,000
Average annual speeding ticket revenue per U.S. police officer$300,000
Percent speeding tickets that get contested in traffic court5 %
Total number of licensed drivers in America today196,000,000

http://www.statisticbrain.com/driving-citation-statistics/

$6.2 billion dollars a year, that would make a good fiscal stimulus...41 million speeding tickets??? I mean really, just raise the speed limits...clearly they are ridiculously low..

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#10
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 4:11 PM

As far as revenue generating, I agree whole heartedly about that... They are even looking for more efficient ways of doing it with the use of speed cameras, that is stepping across the lines, and then getting caught.

But I'm not surprised with how Chicago is run.

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#11
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 9:12 PM

I was riding in an Uber in Washington, DC (dysfunctional city), and the driver said he had lost a lot of the money that he had made to the speed cameras. It seems you don't know you're caught until a couple weeks later when the tickets start arriving in the mail. By that time, you may not even remember where you've been, so forget about contesting it.

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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 9:19 PM

Or traveling to that city... and they rely on people just paying it.

I got po'd, in the last 20 years I contested (3) times (speeding each time), one issued by the county police, (2) issued from state troopers. I contested those three and lost once, only because I was called out the week before on a job, and I returned home at 2:00 in the morning of the court date. Was not sharp and I did had them.

On a number of technicalities... but was too dull from exhaustion. But the best... and rather unfortunate for the taxpayers, I requested a 6 member jury... the judge was pissed for a number of reason, most because of the asst. DA.

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#13
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 10:05 PM

Aren't there a million or so state and local officer's?

Only 6M+ ?

Is is just me or are some numbers in question?

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#14
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 10:53 PM

Dysfunctional DC is an understatement. I lived in suburban Maryland when DC instituted the Fed's right turn on red laws unless posted otherwise. DC immediately posted 85% of their signaled intersections as no right turn on red. Go figure. But at least the red light cameras weren't around back then. Circa 1980.

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#15
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/03/2017 11:46 PM

That's billion with a "B"!...and that's just traffic tickets....add in all the property seizures and that figure goes much higher I would imagine...

..."In 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies employed more than 1.1 million people on a full-time basis, including about 765,000 sworn personnel (defined as those with general arrest powers). Agencies also employed approximately 100,000 part-time employees, including 44,000 sworn officers.[51] "...

They're not all traffic cops.....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_enforcement_in_the_United_States

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#16
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/04/2017 8:14 AM

That's funny, counter-productive and typical... all at once.

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#17
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/04/2017 10:01 AM

A senior citizen drove his brand new Corvette convertible out of the dealership. Taking off down the road, he floored it to 80 mph, enjoying the wind blowing through what little gray hair he had left. Amazing, he thought as he flew down I-94, pushing the pedal even more.

Looking in his rear view mirror, he saw a state trooper behind him, lights flashing and siren blaring. He floored it to 100 mph, then 110, then 120. Suddenly he thought, What am I doing? I'm too old for this, and pulled over to await the trooper's arrival.

Pulling in behind him, the trooper walked up to the Corvette, looked at his watch, and said, "Sir, my shift ends in 30 minutes. Today is Friday. If you can give me a reason for speeding that I've never heard before, I'll let you go."

The old gentleman paused. Then he said, "Years ago, my wife ran off with a state trooper. I thought you were bringing her back."

"Have a good day, sir," replied the trooper.

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#18
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/04/2017 1:35 PM

haha good one...

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#19
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/04/2017 4:33 PM

When I was a trucker, I often saw, or came upon at least a dozen or more accidents of all different kinds during a ten hour shift. Although I was taught not to look at the accident scene and concentrate on the road ahead and around me, there were times that I observed the carnage when I was a rookie driver. As the years and miles passed, and after seeing a multitude of accidents occuring in real time, I became numb to the situations. Now I haven't seen every type of accident there ever was, but believe you me, I, along with thousands of my bretheren have laid witness to more than a fair share, with a vast majority of those contributed by human error.

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#20
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/04/2017 4:49 PM

It's not that they don't know the rules of the road, it's that they can't understand the rules of the road. I talked about this with commercial driving inspector at the local DMV office and she related to me that although most people can read the DMV handbook to varying degrees, about 75% have the comprehension skills of a 4th grade elementary school student. As an example she stated that on a DMV written test, a taker must not miss more than 5 answers before a retake is necessary and only 3 retries are allowed per day. She said on average, most takers miss between 3-4 answers and about 50% fail the 3 test retry.

Now when it comes to the road test, she said about 75% are " allowed " to pass, she said that the state needs the revenue from license fees and the state takes unofficially the sink or swim mentality concerning new drivers.

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#21
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/04/2017 9:39 PM

Bottom line... they don't know the rules of the road... no matter what the reasons why.

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#22
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/04/2017 11:10 PM

Your data ( although interesting did not differentiate between city street and highway speeding tickets.

I suppose we could raise the speed limit in a residential zone of 25 mph to 75 mph. This of course would help those sleepy heads who are habitually late get to work on time.

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#23
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/05/2017 10:49 AM

I was visiting NJ once on a business trip and was warned that the "no turn on red" signs were posted 100 feet from the intersection, back too far to read sitting at the light.

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#24
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/05/2017 3:57 PM

but its a rude awakening to come across a car accident where fatalities occurred just minutes after it happened

Yep, just last week for me. Vehicle vs motorcycle and someone was desperately trying CPR on them before the ambulance arrived. Quite a humbling mess.

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#25
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Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/05/2017 3:59 PM

A great classic this one.

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#26

Re: Driving a Moderately Smart Car in Greece

11/13/2017 6:03 AM

<...Diagram showing how car-mounted camera captures speed-limit data....> How about:

wired to a

?

Ye gods!

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