Ho Chi Minh City traffic video calls into question all automated car technology

Here at Digital Trends, we keep a sharp eye on the latest technology making its way into cars, and one of the latest hot trends is the development of experimental self-driving car technology and production “driver’s aids” that do things like hit the brakes when you might rear-end someone, sound a warning and nudge you back on course when you wander out of your lane while texting driving or sense when you’re dozing off, just to name a few of many.

But after watching the video above, I have to wonder, is any of it really needed? Or should we all just buckle down, pay attention, communicate and be better drivers? Because that’s all that’s going on here.

What you’re seeing above is the Nguyen Cahn Cha intersection in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam. According to the person who posted it on YouTube, it was 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday, which is rush hour there despite being the weekend. Another related video is below.

“Watching Saigon traffic is truly an exhilirating (sic) experience, crossing the streets is another story!” the poster says. That’s an understatement. Someone, please, in the comments, tell me how the situation shown in the video above is not a daily bloodbath. And could “autonomous vehicles” ever really function at this level and speed? What would be required?

With a minimum of traffic controls that appear to consist of traffic lights (to which adherence is apparently quite optional) and not much else – note the absence of  almost any kind of lane markers – this incredible swarm of scooters, pedestrians, cart-pushers, cars, buses, trucks and bicycles somehow avoids tying itself in knots and leaving a pile of bodies in its wake. Over and over and over again.

It’s no surprise to me that the video is closing in on 800,000 views, I’ve contributed at least a dozen just so I can track small parts of it and marvel again at the unseen forces that deliver these people to their destinations unharmed. 

Yes, these riders/drivers/pedestrians are enculturated to moving about in this kind of traffic and as such they make it look easy. But I have to wonder how much faster we could get around in the U.S. and other “developed” countries if we were a bit more patient, made a bit more eye contact and maybe used our horns a bit more (listen for the signals in the video) to let the other guy go first. 

Sure, this is close-quarters driving at the extreme, but the only “driver’s aids” being used are the ones in the operators’ heads. And for that reason it’s all the more amazing than any helper technology I’ve seen so far.

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