Intelligent transport systems can help modern cities cope with traffic volumes by managing demand and controlling traffic flow to maximise the capacity of the road network.
New technology already allows vehicles to detect and respond to different situations on the road, with advances like autonomous braking and automatic parking becoming more common. And connected vehicles can provide features such as automatic notification of traffic accidents.
In the future, developments like these could allow the launch of autonomous driving, contributing to traffic optimisation in smart cities.
Mercedes-Benz has joined the debate over the potential of this technology by unveiling its driverless concept car, the F 015 Luxury in Motion. The futuristic-looking vehicle is unlikely to go into production any time soon, but its design offers a glimpse of the sort of changes we might see on the roads over the coming decades.
Inside, the car has a variable seating system, with four rotating seats that allow a face-to-face configuration. All four passengers can work, relax or chat and there are six display screens that passengers can use to interact with the car through gestures, eye-tracking or by touch.
The electrically propelled vehicle interacts and communicates with the outside world by means of laser projection and LED fields which show, for example, if the F 015 is driving autonomously (blue) or is being controlled manually (white).
Announcing its concept model, Mercedes-Benz said that driverless cars open up new possibilities for urban infrastructure design. For example, special safety zones that are only accessible to autonomous vehicles could be created. And urban space would be regained by autonomous vehicles parking themselves on the periphery.
The manufacturer envisions a time when the divide between residential, recreational and traffic areas is eliminated and the car-friendly city is transformed into the people-friendly city.