Driverless cars could improve the flow of traffic by smoothing out start-stop traffic waves, according to new research.
When humans are behind the wheel, ‘phantom traffic jams’ are often created when vehicles change lane or merge, or just because of natural oscillations in human driving. However, the study to be published in Transportation Research Part C suggests that even a small percentage of autonomous vehicles (5%) could have a significant impact in eliminating waves while also reducing the total fuel consumption by up to 40% and the braking events by up to 99%.
Using a circular track with 22 vehicles, the researchers demonstrated that stop-and-go waves emerge consistently and that they can be dissipated by controlling the speed of a single vehicle in the flow.
The research team included experts in traffic flow theory, control theory, robotics, cyber-physical systems, and transportation engineering.
Fully autonomous vehicles could be on Britain’s roads by 2021 — but are motorists ready to hand over control to an automated system?
A global survey by TUV Rheinland has found that drivers want to be able to decide for themselves when to let a car drive autonomously, and when to control it themselves.
And while respondents generally agree that automation of driving will improve road safety, people’s doubts tend to increase and trust in the technology decreases as vehicles’ level of automation goes up.
For instance, only 11% of respondents in Germany and 15% in the United States fear ‘a deterioration of road safety’ due to partial automation, but nearly half believe that road safety will deteriorate with the advent of completely driverless cars.
The findings suggest that “we must give people much more information and communicate the benefits of autonomous technology more clearly,” said Dr Matthias Schubert, executive VP of mobility at TUV Rheinland.