Towards a Non-Competitive Motoring System:

Unexplored Opportunities for Social, Cultural, Ecological and Economical Progress

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Henning von Winning

Erschienen in: Sucharov, L. J. (Ed.): Urban Transport V; Southampton, Boston 1999, S. 599-608


We face a new situation: in contrast to the first decades of the automobile, future roads and streets worldwide will be congested. We suggest standardized and limited speeds and acceleration with steady traffic flow and without overtaking and competing. This would be one condition for the halving of all traffic damage and saving one third of traffic expense. Enforced by law and by compulsary built-in electronic limiters, non-competitive traffic would provide new possibilities instead of the restrictions of high-speed. New automobile manufacturing design could guarantee another fifty years of market lead. Companies clinging to the racing/touring-concept will lose any importance. Theoretical and empirical studies indicate best results. Even a small country or provincial government will be able to start the process of civilizing and thus stabilizing the automobile system. Whoever does so, will be first to benefit from the social, cultural, economic and ecological progress. But this project will not be possible without a certain amount of public promotion.

  • Full Motorization in Conurbations: Individual Momentum no longer Leads to Faster Transportation
  • Non-Competition: Steady Driving and Standardized Limits for Traffic Flow, Speed, Acceleration, Engine Revolutions
  • Halving all Damage: Ressouces, Environment, Urbanization, Accidents, Costs
  • New Pleasure, Better Mobility, New Variety, More Identity for Towns and Countryside
  • Another Fifty Years of Global Market Lead Through Technical Solutions for Non-Competitive Driving
  • Positive Indications of Pilot Studies, Favourable Response, Unilateral Introduction

    1. Full Motorization in Conurbations: Individual Momentum no longer Leads to Faster Transportation

    For many decades in the beginning era of the private motor-car a reasonable part of driving time took place in rather empty country roads or city streets. Therefore, faster accelerating, higher top-speeds and overtaking meant faster transportation. For the fast driver as well as for the whole system. But this is different now. When you overtake, you still might gain a few seconds. But these are taken - or stolen ? - from the driver you just overtook, because you will take his place in the next queue , the next city entrance, the next traffic jam, or just the next red traffic light. And this competition leads to accidents, delays and excessive costs. So all expenses for more dynamics and more momentum no longer improve or accelerate the motoring system.

    At the same time there is no possibility for the individual to moderate his driving individually. If speed competition between drivers is allowed , it is also enforced : if you do not overtake, you will be overtaken. If you drive the last km before the queue slowly, you lose a considerable amount of time, because all other drivers overtake you. Therefore, saving  expenses for useless speed and momentum will be possible only by collective arrangements.

    Building additional roads doesn’t seem to change much of the situation of congestion, traffic build-up, growing conurbations and full motorization. And this is economically conclusive: in terms of transportation empty roads would be like investment surplus demand. Therefore speed usually is not chosen free but determined. This leads to the idea to standardize traffic performance at certain levels. These could be 90 km/h ( Trucks, country roads, cars with heavy loads or trailers), 120 km/h (Cars on multi-lane highways), 30 km/h (Residential areas), 50 km/h (City main streets), and inevitably stop-and-go anywhere at congestion times. As overtaking is not necessary, a satisfactory acceleration rate could be about 1,0 m/sec² (Loaded truck or bus with standing passengers). This also leads to limitations of engine-revolutions depending on car model and driving condition far below todays maximum or average.

    Present road infrastructure and car manufacturing is not meant for this purpose. It follows the High-Speed-needs of the German Autobahn. In fact there still is some road conditions, dry, empty  and at daylight , where 250 km/h be possible. But this will prove very rare, an their transportation work very low. The Autobahn is described better in terms of psychology: fun and dream, myth and delusion. Only a neglegible minority would still vote for speeding and competition, if they had to pay all the expenses necessary for competing. And this only takes into account the direct cost of vehicles and road-infrastructure - not the social and environmental costs. Therefore, a reform of the system is overdue.

    2. Non-Competition: Steady Driving and Standardized Limits 
    for Traffic Flow, Speed, Acceleration, Engine Revolutions

    The scenario of non-competitive traffic probably will not work, if not be enforced by legal regulations concerning behaviour on public roads. Regulations also should include limiting electronic equipment built in new cars, that control exactly the rate of acceleration, the speed and the engine-rpm. Future cars will automatically provide smooth, steady, non-competitive, low-impact and trouble-free traffic flow, and the opposite will be prevented automatically.

    Best results can be expected, if the different speed and acceleration limits are activated by the driver voluntarily, but of course enforced by law, by pressing a button (See Fig. 1). Electronic memory could make the position controllable. External activation (e.g. by infra-red or radio transmission) might be possible but has some disadvantages: At first it may not cover all areas, it might be very expensive especially regarding the needs of high safety and reliability, and it might not be popular among some motorists.

    One of the essentials of the system is, that overtaking should be completely forbidden (except tractors) on oncoming lanes, together with a common speed-limit at 90 km/h both for cars and trucks on two-lane country roads. This can be expected to allow a very relaxed driving: It will be easily possible to remain some convenient 100 m behind a truck. The automazation of your car and the car behind you prevent any idea or feeling of overtaking and competing - totally different from what country road driving is nowadays. Overtaking-lanes for 120 km/h (or less on steep slopes) might have some positive influence on schedule and patience of some car-drivers.

    Fig. 1: Speed-Limiter on Dashboard

     Speed-Limiter on Dashboard

     3. Halving all Damage: Ressouces, Environment, Urbanization, Accidents, Costs

    The introduction of non-competitive, standardized traffic-flow - even if at first only in built-up-areas - immediately will considerably improve traffic safety, noise, pollution, and fuel consumption as well as the chance of community life in towns and villages.This can be achieved just by installing electronic limiters in common cars. They can be part of the equipment of new cars at  no additional cost or as an additional device into existing cars for some 250 Euro. Technical development for this will take about one year.

    There are some more additional features to be attached to the traditional car construction.The engine should be turned off if not required, brake and downhill energy should be regained and stored, continouusly variable transmissions should always be managed for optimized (low) engine revolutions. These and other items will cause even more reductions of noise, pollution and fuel consumption. It might take four years to establish this a mass-product. There will be no reason for rising car prices.

    Another - the greatest - potential will be achieved by a general and absolute speed limit at a level of about 120 km/h. We are not talking about the few instances of high speed driving, this is neglegible. But we are talking of the fact, that the criteria for the manufacturing design of all cars and all details depend on the capacity of the highest speed, any car of this series might reach. And as the GT-Version even of the miniest mini may be motorized for 220 km/h, all the minis and maxis carry all stuff necessary for that - and this is a lot. If body, engine, drive-shaft, aggregates, equipment were free of the restrictions , weight and requirements of highest speed, all constructions will be subject to total redesign. Everything has to be checked again; no part will be the same afterwards. After all, this will lead to a general reduction in car exhaust emissions, waste, energy and raw-materialdeteriorisation down to some 50% of present levels. (See Fig. 2) . Costs can be reduced by one third. These improvements will reach their peak in some 8-12 years. Similar reductions will be possible for road-standards, maintenance, infrastructure etc.

    The money saved may be used for other private or public purposes. Within traffic budgets it might balance higher road-and-park-pricing or higher energy taxes. After all, getting the same transportation-value for half the money is free market economics at ist best. And at the same time, non-competitive driving could provide a surprisingly significant ecological, human, cultural and social progress.

    Fig. 2:    Potentals of Non-Competitive Traffic Performance and Car Concepts
     Potentials of Non-Competitive Traffic

    4. New Pleasure, Better Mobility, New Variety, More Identity for Towns and Countryside

    Even if most drivers nowadays do not enjoy the continuous competition on the road, for some people really find it fun. They like the occasional victories, the danger, the thrill. Yet today a powerful engine does not indicate power or social status of the owner or user any more - simply because today all engines have excessive power. So if all costs and damage would not be socialized, it can be assumed, that even most of those who love to speed today would vote for a non-competitive traffic on public roads. Driving competitions then can be held on racing circuits and go-cart-centers. All in all this would be much cheaper than the present 24-hour car-race on all public roads..

    But the new system will not be less fun. It will create amazing new automobile pleasures. All drivers can glide along calmly, almost noiseless, and without croud stress or fear of being annoyed or overtaken. Travelling times (for goods and persons) will be much more reliable and predictable. Therefore private and business organization will become more flexible.

    The design of vehicles  will develop a much bigger variety in shape, size, fittings, controls, comfort, customization, range, loading capacity, handling features, appearance and representation . As only speed and acceleration will be standardized and restricted, all other items will not be restricted any more by the extremely special requirements of speed and acceleration. At the same time this will give a lot more and varied possibilities to express personal and social status.

    Furthermore, the visible parts of road infrastructure can be free from a good deal of their traffic-related design elements caused by high-speed requirements: e. g. size and appearance of signs and road-markings, traffic-surfaces etc. Towns, villages, neighbourhoods and landscape will  develop and redevelop their own characteristic topographic, cultural and natural qualities, appearance, and details. Local and regional identities no longer will be forced into the anonymous international constrictions of the homogeneous culture of automotive speeding.

    Thus, very few restrictions in a very small section of car-driving can open up a wide range of new freedoms in other sections of car-driving, of car-ownership of traffic, and of life.

    5. Another Fifty Years of Global Market Lead
    Through Technical Solutions for Non-Competitive Driving

    As soon as traffic becomes non-competitive, the world market will demand vehicles rather different from those of today. The ecological car will rather be large, light and low-motorized than small, heavy and racey: a steel balloon a meter longer is safer and much better to use. Saving city space also at most is a question of speed reduction, whereas non-standardized parking of smaller cars does not count that much. But generally all sizes of cars will continue to be demanded. Most advanced small engines, drive-shafts etc. will be optimized for best efficiency based on economic and ecological criteria rather than for mere power. Without the requirements for extremely wide ranges of dynamics, speed, momentum, and power the creativity of the engineers will find suprising new answers. Most of these answers already exist, have been put aside, and now again must be subject of research and development under new circumstances.

    In the last decades the European car industry did not show very receptive to the concept of a non-competitive car. The tradition seems to guarantee successful business for the future as it did in the past. Also competition is subject of technical standards; So it is widely concealed, that the competitive part of the automobile system is not a necessary part but a very expensive surplus. Therefore the lack of civilized traffic regulations is not a source of wealth, democracy and freedom, but the direct opposite.

    The competitive part of the automobile system ist not only the result of free market economics and technical innovation. It also gives some indications of a governmentally influenced, oversubsidized market and technical stagnation. But even law makers and governments are subject to global competition. And some countries - especially the ones with growing automobile markets like Eastern Europe, South America and Asia, have most remarkable cultural traditions, and civilized authorities to organize society. Also they suffer from strong economic restrictions. If only some of them would opt for a non-competitive system, their industry will take the lead in this adapted-technology market for decades. And nobody should rely on the hope, that the market of legal systems can be restricted in the long run.

    It is true, that non-competitive cars mean one third less turnover per unit. But it also can mean a doubling in size of the global market. The losers in this market will be the manufactures of the extremely expensive high-speed cars. They will suffer the „Rolls Royce Effect“: They serve some very few snobs or sentimental museums, at last sell their brand names. Their economic, social and political influence and responsibility will disappear. The bread-and-butter car will came from anywhere else. If the losers are the European companies, Europe‘s losses will be enormous. This is why European governments are under pressure to act now.

    6. Positive Indications of Pilot Studies, Favourable Response, Unilateral Introduction

    Between 1987 and 1992 the government of North-Rhine-Westfalia funded some theoretical and empirical research on this subject. The results quoted here mostly come from these reports and publications.

    Model computing indicated that the non-competitive technical concept would show the striking potential for economy and ecology described here. This phase I of the research project also included considerations concerning the technical state-of-the-art in the automobile industry, the impact on urban planning and landscaping, acceptance and psychological aspects. None of them indicated any major problems.

    In a Phase II some 40 vehicles were equipped with speed limiters and tested for more than 1.000.000 km. This was to to assess handling and technical problems as well as doing some PR-work to prepare the ground for a bigger test. The drivers were non-representative professional city employees, and the test of course meant non-competitive driving in an unchanged competitive traffic. This in a way resembles a situation,where you are kicked and beaten every ten minutes and you are forced to stay patient and peaceful. In addition the benefits of a changed system were not yet existent and visible. Nonetheless all possible results of measuring and questioning were positive and encouraging.

    So a bigger test was prepared for Phase III: Some 1000 vehicles  in several special residential areas were to be equipped with speed-limiters. The idea was, to reach a non-competitive traffic conditions at least within this area even if only about a quarter of vehicles actively participate. Interested communities and areas were chosen according to urban, traffic, and social characteristics. A PR-campaign was planed and started to inform people about aims, opportunities, problems and implications of the project. A research model was prepared to measure the results of the bigger test. Then the whole project was cancelled for political reasons in 1993. Since then, only some empirical research has been published from the university of Lund/Sweden.

    The small amount of publicity during the research projects indicated a wide public acceptance. But it also became clear, that it would need a lot of public information. The average driver, the average resident or the average pedestrian finds it difficult to imagine road-traffic different from today in a peaceful non-competive way. It must be emphasized again, that the benefits cannot be noticed as long as only a few vehicles are fitted with the device. Even bigger test can only use „domesticated“ cars of ordinary type. It may appear to be a contradiction, to buy 200 hp and then regulate it down. On the other hand, the most visible positive effects can be realized.

    Whatever the results of further research might be: The social decision for non-competitive traffic concerns everybody. Thus introduction by law requires the mandat of the society at large, which seems very probable (not just of the motorists). A majority of motorists is desirable, and probable also, but it is not relevant.

    A gradual introduction is important, because life must go on during a change of systems. Once speed and acceleration limits are stricter than today and overtaking is forbidden completely, the limiter technology has operational advantages. So it will be accepted as a standard feature in new cars. Also the parts industry will soon offer additional kits for existing cars like the one used in the research projects. Even if the use may be voluntary at first, a sufficient number of drivers will use it because of the handling advantages - at least most of the time. At this point, these cars also can be used in the traditional way. Also the owner can fix the electronics to a chosen top-speed. If he does, he might unseal it by the time of sale and mention the very smooth driving record of the car.

    The more areas and times of traffic work in a non-competitive way, the more the customers will demand the new technique. The moment the maximum speed limit together with strict environmental standards and standardized acceleration at whatsoever level is definitely enforced legally, the market will develop a heavy demand for light, low-power, low-gas, but high-tech automobiles. The very small individual advantage of more power will disappear completely, so that fuel saving will be more important - with or without fuel taxes. And the progressive producers will respond with a hardly predictable variety of performance and technical concepts and details. This process will work without any further governmental support.

    The gradual process also does not need a national, European or even worldwide consensus or decision. There is no rational objection, that even a provincial government or a small country should not start the legal basis. Introduction may take place first in a limited area such as an island or a specially advanced urbanized metropolitan region.

    But also it must be said that there are some provisos: Thorough preparation in research in all sectors mentioned, professional information and public relations work, and responsible and reliable politics are absolutely necessary.

    The key to the concept is not simply the speed limits and its levels. If it were, the whole world (except Germany) would not be bying competitive cars any more and would not drive in a more or less competitive way. The key is the blanket ban on overtaking combined with the standardization of accelerations and speeds.

    The world will not renounce the privat motor car for a long time, and there are good reasons for that (although it should be discussed, which amount can be sustained). But in any case use should be made as civilized as possible - and there is a massive potential for improvement. Using a motor car is a very special thing for human beings, at least of historical, maybe even of evolutionary importance. Its cultural integration has only just begun.


    Further information on urban and traffic development is found in the author‘s publications:
    v.Winning, H.-H. ,Nachhaltigkeit und Effizienz - Aktuelle Beiträge zur  Verkehrsplanung, FB 13 ,Universität Gesamthochschule Kassel,1997

    All research results on non-competitive motoring systems are quoted from the author‘s reports and articles:
    v.Winning, H.-H., Krüger, M., City-Paket und Geschwindigkeitschalter:

  • Verkehrsberuhigung am Auto, Hrsg.ILS, Heft 35, Dortmund, 1989
  • A: Überblick über Stand und Entwicklung der Autotechnik
  • B: Abschätzung der Folgen für die städtische Umwelt
  • C: Picot,S. Fragen der Akzeptanz, Psychologische Aspekte
  • Vergleichende Bewertung der Städte und ihrer Quartiere zur Vorbereitung eines Feldversuches
  • Erfahrungen kommunaler Fahrer, Schlußbericht Phase II, 1991
  • III.Phase und Begleitforschung ,Vorbereitung eines Feldversuchs

    v.Winning, H.-H., Krüger, M., Geschwindigkeit per Knopfdruck einhalten, Der Städtetag, Heft 7 , Köln, 1992

    Thanks to Joanna Rowe for translating.