Driverless Cars – A World Without Traffic Jams, Delays and Wasted Fuel?

One of the banes of a driver’s life is getting stuck in traffic during busy periods. It is a stress, uncomfortable and an inconvenience for timekeeping to say the least. At the moment if you drive in any capacity there’s no real way of avoiding traffic jams, congestion and disruptions at some point or another.

However, imagine a world where traffic consistently flows without disruptions, even when the roads are at their most congested during rush hour and at peak times.

That is quite likely the reality we’ll face in the future when autonomous cars are ubiquitous. A very strange thought indeed, but it is probable that at some point in the future our roads will be entirely populated by self-driving cars. One of the advantages of self-driving (autonomous) cars is that they are fitted with 360 degree sensors/cameras and have the ability to communicate with other systems in real-time.

This ability to communicate with other systems is the key to eradicating traffic jams in the future. Did you know the majority of jams and delays today are not caused by any actual obstruction issue with the road? Traffic delays are most commonly caused by a phenomenon known as the ‘phantom traffic jam’. The following video below explains it perfectly:

In the future the road will essentially be a large interconnected network of computers (cars) all talking to one another simultaneously. This means that there won’t be the issue of getting too close to the car in front and having to brake harshly. Even if somehow this was to happen, the other vehicles on the road would be able to deal with it effectively, as opposed to the current outcome which is a jam travelling backwards like falling dominos.

As we’re finding out from the Google self-driving car, these machines are finding efficiencies and driving techniques that humans wouldn’t even consider. This article recently published in Popular Mechanics talks about how the self-driving car has found ways to achieve a 3 point turn that are quicker, safer and more efficient. However the motions of such manoeuvres are disconcerting to human occupants, and as such the cars need to be re-programmed. Humans prefer arcs and smooth shapes when performing turning manoeuvres according to research. Therefore the future of motoring development could be in overcoming the clinical efficiency of computer calculated driving.

This machine-learning of self-driving cars however translates to general road driving as well. The car will be able to automatically calculate the best route, speed and gear change timings to get you to your destination as quickly as possible with maximum fuel efficiency.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions and many hurdles to overcome before autonomous cars can be fully launched. However as we can see from this article and other research the benefits are vast and getting this technology ‘right’ could give us a hugely positive change on the roads.

This entry was posted in Reports & Research on by Pete McAllister

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