The Department for Transport used computer modeling to measure the impact autonomous vehicles will have on traffic flow
Driverless cars will cut delays and reduce journey times, according to computer modelling by the government’s Department for Transport (DfT).
In a report commissioned by the DfT exploring how autonomous and connected cars will impact traffic in urban areas and on major roads such as motorways, the modelling found that in situations where self-driving cars outnumbered those with a human behind the wheel, traffic flow improved significantly.
Delay beating driverless cars
In situations with just autonomous vehicles, delays caused by congestion fell by 40 percent and the time it took to make a journey fell by 11 percent, as the superior reaction times of autonomous driving systems over human motorists meant the cars could travel much closer together without incurring a collision risk.
Self-driving cars also beat humans when it comes to maintaining constant speeds and avoiding erratic breaking, all of which helps keep traffic flowing smoothly.
However, in modeled situations where human driven vehicles outnumbered autonomous cars, the impact of self-driving systems on traffic flow was negligible. But on urban roads during peak traffic periods even low levels of autonomous vehicles can deliver a 12 percent reduction in delays and a 21 percent increase in reliable journey times.
This indicated that for the true impact of autonomous vehicles to be felt, there needs to be a strong adoption of them, which raises all manner of questions over whether they should occupy the same roads as normal drivers, issues of liability if a crash occurs, and the impact it will have on jobs such as taxi driving, and the car industry where some brands rely upon offering a ‘driving experience’ for their customers.
But that does not appear to have curtailed the government’s enthusiasm for the development and use of driverless cars on British roads.
“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.
“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.”
And with more technology companies providing the hardware and software to support the development of autonomous vehicles, it is likely only a matter of time before they become a regular sight on UK roads.
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