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A few self-driving cars can improve traffic flow

Discussion in 'Autonomous Vehicles' started by mblakele, May 9, 2017.

  1. mblakele

    mblakele pre-jackpot member

    Mar 7, 2016
    SF Bay Area
    This idea has been around for awhile, but here's a new experiment showing successful results. This is something I hope to see in future Tesla software.

    Experiments show that a few self-driving cars can dramatically improve traffic flow

    The team conducted field experiments in Tucson, Arizona, in which a single autonomous vehicle circled a track continuously with at least 20 other human-driven cars. Under normal circumstances, human drivers naturally create stop-and-go traffic, even in the absence of bottlenecks, lane changes, merges or other disruptions, Work said. This phenomenon is called the "phantom traffic jam." Researchers found that by controlling the pace of the autonomous car in the study, they were able to smooth out the traffic flow for all the cars. For the first time, researchers demonstrated experimentally that even a small percentage of such vehicles can have a significant impact on the road, eliminating waves and reducing the total fuel consumption by up to 40 percent. Moreover, the researchers found that conceptually simple and easy to implement control strategies can achieve the goal.

    Full paper:

    Traffic waves are phenomena that emerge when the vehicular density exceeds a critical threshold. Considering the
    presence of increasingly automated vehicles in the traffic stream, a number of research activities have focused on the
    influence of automated vehicles on the bulk traffic flow. In the present article, we demonstrate experimentally that
    intelligent control of an autonomous vehicle is able to dampen stop-and-go waves that can arise even in the absence of
    geometric or lane changing triggers. Precisely, our experiments on a circular track with more than 20 vehicles show
    that traffic waves emerge consistently, and that they can be dampened by controlling the velocity of a single vehicle in
    the flow. We compare metrics for velocity, braking events, and fuel economy across experiments. These experimental
    findings suggest a paradigm shift in traffic management: flow control will be possible via a few mobile actuators (less
    than 5%) long before a majority of vehicles have autonomous capabilities.
    • Informative x 1
  2. TacC

    TacC Member

    Jun 2, 2016
    East Bay, CA
    This is a good read and it makes intuitive sense. Plus I like to think that I'm doing my part to reduce traffic jams by driving at a moderate speed in situations where waves can form.

    There was a Mythbusters episode that backs this up pretty definitively.

    Let's get to work on traffic circles, too.

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