Saturday, October 23, 2004

Improved Rumble Strips

Rumble strips.... Those repeating grooves cut into the sides of roadways (mainly highways) to warn tired motorists when they have strayed too far and are now driving on the shoulder of the road. Sometimes they're placed before a curve or an intersection to warn the driver that they need to slow down.

Whatever the application, they all do the same thing--make your car's tires produce a loud low-pitched sound (and vibration) when you drive on them.

How can something like this be improved, if only for novelty purposes?

I remember back to high school, where my physics teacher (affectionately known as "Doc Brown") had this toy. It was basically a cup (paper or plastic, can't remember) that had a plastic strip running through the middle of it. The strip resembled a tie-wrap, which electricians are very familiar with. People who watch COPS might think that they're called disposable handcuffs. ;-)

The difference between this toy's strip and the every day tie-wrap is that the grooves and ridges cut into the strip were not equally spaced out, but rather, they were arranged in a pattern to represent an acoustic message (similar to patterns in vinyl records--you know, those 12" Analog CD's?). Would this be amplitude modulation or frequency modulation? Doesn't really matter for my point....

So, the user would use their fingernail to stroke along the grooves, at a constant speed and the cup was simply there to amplify the resulting sound vibrations that were transferred to it through the attached plastic strip. This particular toy simply said "Merry Christmas".

So, my thought is that the rumble strips on a roadway can be modified to include a modulated acoustic message. "WARNING", "SLOW DOWN", "CURVE AHEAD", "MERRY CHRISTMAS". Whatever the novelty, it might be an improvement that could offer some safety benefit.