UK Report: Traffic to Decrease by 40% Thanks to Self-driving Cars, But There's a Catch

UK Report: Traffic to Decrease by 40% Thanks to Self-driving Cars, But There's a Catch

Author: Michael Cheng   

In addition to making roads safer, analysts predict the rise of self-driving cars can improve traffic flow and reduce road congestion. Some leaders, including Joseph A. Schafer, criminal justice department head at Southern Illinois University, believe the level of driving efficiency autonomous vehicles are capable of reaching could make traffic stops at intersections obsolete.

These "moonshot" forecasts have been carefully calculated by developers in the autonomous car space. In a study published by UK's Department for Transport (titled Research on the Impacts of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles [CAVs] on Traffic Flow), researchers used a computerized stimulator to generate predictions about AI-powered driving. The results showed that driverless cars could reduce traffic jams by up to 40 percent in the European region.


Reaching Ultra-Efficiency

The report takes into consideration new infrastructure and networks for autonomous and connected vehicles on public roads. Using such networks through V2V and V2I protocols could decrease traveling times by a whopping 30.7 percent. For motorways and A-roads during peak, rush hours, the reduction is not as significant at 4.1 percent.

"This exciting and extensive study shows that driverless cars could vastly improve the flow of traffic in our towns and cities, offering huge benefits to motorists including reduced delays and more reliable journey times," said Transport Minister Johns Hayes.

So how do AI-powered systems accomplish such remarkable efficiency rates? The cause of most traffic jams in urban locations is a mix of sudden breaking and accelerating. Using predictive algorithms, fast 3D map deployment (in real-time) and infrastructure support (for example, a sensor at an intersection could provide cars data about congestion miles before the encounter), driverless vehicles could put an end to "stop-and-go" driving – a type of movement many drivers resort to during the nascent stages of traffic build up.

Moreover, automakers want to be able to offer a smooth experience for passengers of autonomous cars; hence, groups are doubling down on efforts to eliminate jerky, sudden movements, including aggressive breaking on open roads.


But There's a Catch

This new standard of autonomous, seamless driving requires a specific penetration percentage in order decrease road congestion. Basically, this means that the ratio of self-driving cars to human-driven cars must be at 2:1 or higher (50 percent or above). It is only at such rates that traffic will start to decrease. The DfT report calculated that UK roads will be slightly more congested when one in four vehicles are driverless.

According to Vlad Mitrache from Auto Evolution, this dip in efficiency is due to the presence of unpredictable human drivers. Self-driving cars will likely take a cautious, defensive stance in mitigating road issues concerning SAE L1-L2 vessels. Analysts also foresee humans pushing the limits of autonomous driving through taunting, unnecessary lane shifting and swerving.

"Driverless cars are just one example of cutting edge technology which could transform the way in which we travel in the future, particularly in providing new opportunities for those with reduced mobility. This study reinforces our belief that these technologies offer major benefits and this government will support their research," clarified Hayes.

Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng
Michael Cheng is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry ISHN Magazine Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology business and digesting hard data. Outside of work Michael likes to train for marathons spend time with his daughter and explore new places.
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