How to Communicate to Other Drivers


Communication is sometimes a thing which is incredibly hard to do.  And this is with the assumption of like languages and proximity.  So what do we do when situations don’t have these but we require that communication?

I’m going to share a recent story and then go into a thought experiment.

I was driving home recently and I noticed that the car behind me was quite skewed in how it was oriented.  Now as there is a certain judgement that can be made in situations like this, I will just say that it was a newer and nicer model of car and shouldn’t have been laying like it was.  This is an assumption, you can disagree.  When looking in my rearview mirror, I began to think that perhaps this driver had a flat tire.  As I drove, I would look back and try and figure out what was wrong with this car.

At a light, my navigator (passenger) remarked that they smelled a burning smell and they thought it might have just been the road which is under construction.  Fresh oil.  But as we pulled away from the light, I saw smoke coming out of the wheel well of the tire that I thought was flat.  This seemed very troublesome to me and I realized I needed to tell this person that he had issues he needed to address.

Now, how does one communicate in a car to someone in a different car?  You can flash your various lights, honk your horn, make hand gestures (thank you waves or flipped bird), and / or try and use spoken language.  Each of these comes with, I think, significant problems.

Perhaps with the greater push for Internet of Things we can move to an actual vehicle car communication.  There are some general purpose goals I think we should keep in mind during this thought experiment.

  • Knowledge
  • Safety
  • Privacy

In the broadest sense, Knowledge is meant to inform drivers of situations, Safety is both about currently driving and safety to the individual, and Privacy is to restrict personally identifiable information from being spread.

Let us get more specific with some requirements, in no particular order.

  • All interactions should be accomplished with Voice Commands
  • Cars should be easily identifiable to other cars and drivers. The cognitive load to initiate communication should not be excessive.  This can be done with various techniques at the moment – wifi access point identification or Bluetooth.
  • Information transmitted should be verified for accuracy when possible.
  • Communications between cars should never reveal information which isn’t available via a driver’s own senses – make, model, color, license plate and perhaps year of vehicle.
  • The system should be created in way to update for future settings and scenarios
  • The system should also be able to address unsavory or abusive behavior
  • The system should do everything to promote a greater safety for all users


  1. Is data kept somewhere about notices/communications and are there sufficient protections in place to protect its release? (Hackers or overreaching police actions)
  2. There is still a concern about the cognitive load. Will it distract drivers too much?

I think it could be possible to go on and on about this system, it is an enjoyable thought experiment.  But for the time being, I’ll leave this here.


So, did I succeed in getting their attention?  I did.  I put on my emergency blinkers and was going to get out (cautiously) and tell him.  This plan didn’t work because he tried to pass me upon putting my blinkers but as he pulled up, I began the vocal strategy.  I rolled my window down and yelled at him.

“You’re driving on your rim!”

“Am I?” He pulled over, I pulled away.

*I saw a video a while ago of someone driving in Japan, I think.  When they wished to thank a driver for letting them in or another kind gesture, they’d flash their emergency blinkers twice.  I’ve taken this to try and thank people here but I am unsure if it will pick up.

**How did he not know he was driving on his rim?  This was asked by people I told this story to.  I think it was because the road was under construction and some people just don’t pay that much attention.  We can make a lot of excuses/reasons for it but at the end of the day, he didn’t seem to know.  It was loud though when he pulled up next to me.


Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.