Study: Traffic flow significantly improves with AVs on the road

Dive Brief:

  • A recent study, funded by the National Science Foundation's Cyber-Physical Systems and written by a variety of university researchers, found that a few autonomous vehicles among human-driven cars can significantly reduce stop-and-go traffic.
  • The researchers conducted field experiments in Tucson, AZ and utilized GPS-equipped vehicles to monitor traffic patterns, allowing them to detect changes in real-time.
  • Researchers found as few as 5% of vehicles being automated on the roads can help eliminate human-created traffic, known as "phantom traffic jams." The test also found an alleviation of traffic can reduce total fuel consumption by up to 40%.

Dive Insight:

Autonomous vehicles will roll out gradually across cities in the next few years, so research into how traffic will change with a mix of autonomous vehicles and human drivers can offer crucial insight for needed developments citywide. As Smart Cities Dive previously reported, AV adoption will transform cities' use of space and infrastructure, and knowing how traffic patterns will likely be affected can help with those transformations.

While AVs become more mainstream, smaller technological advancements will lead the charge. The researchers said in an interview that incremental technology improvements, like sensors, cruise control and radio-frequency identification​ (RFID) devices, can improve traffic flows. While many of this tech is already being utilized in cars, cities can work to optimize these features and capture data from vehicles for assessments.

Cars aren't the only vehicles that are seeking automation. Earlier this week, Volvo announced it is testing a driverless garbage truck with partners in Sweden. While many industry leaders are skeptical of hazards associated with large autonomous collection vehicles, successful deployment of this technology could lead to a bright future in terms of traffic flow.

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Filed Under: Transportation
Top image credit: jurvetson