Scientists found that self-driving cars can slow down traffic on the roads

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(ORDO NEWS) — A recent study by North Carolina State University researchers found that vehicles that communicate wirelessly with each other, called connected cars, can significantly improve traffic flow at intersections.

This finding highlights the importance of integrating communications into both vehicles and traffic management systems to improve travel times and improve passenger safety.

Improving Safety and Reducing Travel Times

The study, led by Ali Hajbabai, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, aimed to examine the impact of different types of vehicles on intersection travel times. According to Hajbabai, the two main reasons people are interested in automated vehicles are improving passenger safety and reducing travel time.

While previous research has shown that automated vehicles can improve safety, the study suggests that simply increasing the number of automated vehicles on the road is not enough to improve travel times. Vehicles are needed that can communicate with each other and with the traffic control systems that control traffic flow at intersections.

Understanding different vehicle types

The researchers used a computational model to simulate road conditions and evaluate the impact of different vehicle types on travel times. Four types of vehicles were taken into account:

1. Human Driven Vehicles (HCV): These vehicles are driven by a human and are not equipped with any means of communication.
2. Connected Vehicles (CVs): These vehicles are human driven but are equipped with connectivity features that allow them to share information with other connected vehicles and the traffic control system.
3. Automated Vehicles (AV): These vehicles are self-driving and drive more carefully compared to human drivers due to their programming.
4. Connected Automated Vehicles (CAVs): These vehicles are self-driving and equipped with connectivity features that allow them to receive information about the future status of traffic lights and adjust their speed accordingly.

The Impact of Connectivity on Traffic Flow

The researchers ran 57 traffic simulations to evaluate the impact of various combinations of HV, AV, CV, and CAV on intersection travel times. The results showed that a higher proportion of vehicles equipped with AVs and CAVs increases the capacity of intersections, meaning that more vehicles can pass through the intersection faster. This has also led to fewer cars waiting at red lights.

On the other hand, a higher percentage of unplugged vehicles actually slowed down intersections. This is because AVs are programmed to drive conservatively to reduce the risk of collisions. The findings highlight the importance of incorporating connectivity into both vehicles and traffic management systems to optimize traffic flows.

The Importance of Computational Modeling

Hajbabai acknowledges that the study was conducted using a computational model, which has its limitations. However, it is very difficult and expensive to assemble a mixed fleet of HV, AV, CV and CAV into a single traffic management system.

Field tests involving human drivers may also raise safety concerns. Computational modeling research therefore plays an important role in identifying potential problems and finding solutions before real people’s lives are at stake.

In conclusion, this study highlights the significant impact that connected vehicles can have on traffic flow at intersections. Incorporating connectivity into both vehicles and traffic management systems can reduce travel times and improve passenger safety. As technology advances, it is important to conduct further research and testing to ensure the seamless integration of connected vehicles into our transportation systems.


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