Technology

Driverless cars could help to reduce traffic on the roads

New research from the US claims autonomous cars could help control traffic flow and reduce congestion.

Having just a handful of autonomous vehicles on the road could help reduce traffic, new research has claimed.

According to researchers from across the US, as little as 5% of traffic being made up of driverless vehicles could help eliminate “stop and go driving” which can cause congestion.

Driverless car
(Fabio De Paola/PA)

The research, which was led by Daniel Work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggests that as well as reducing accident risk and fuel inefficiency, autonomous vehicles could help regulate traffic flow on roads by better regulating speed on busy roads.

The team carried out experiments on a circular track in Arizona, where one autonomous car navigated the circuit continuously alongside 20 other, human-driven cars.

The researchers found that with the driverless vehicle there to control the pace, the traffic flow of all the cars smoothed out.

They said that under normal circumstances, human drivers are prone to creating stop and go traffic, but with the driverless car in play regulating speed, this was reduced.

traffic jam
(Gareth Fuller/PA0

Another of the principal investigators on the study, Professor Jonathan Sprinkle from Temple University, told Phys.org: “Before we carried out these experiments, I did not know how straightforward it could be to positively affect the flow of traffic.

“I assumed we would need sophisticated control techniques, but what we showed was that controllers which are staples of undergraduate control theory will do the trick.”

The team of researchers said that while full autonomous vehicles were still some way off, existing car technology such as adaptive cruise control may also have the power to influence and improve traffic in the short term.

Several of the major manufacturers have predicted the early 2020s as the date for the first fully autonomous cars going on sale.

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