A fleet of driverless cars working together to keep traffic moving smoothly can improve overall traffic flow by at least 35 percent, researchers have shown.
Driverless cars working together can speed up traffic by 35 percent
For autonomous cars to be safely used on real roads, we need to know how they will interact with each other
The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, programmed a small fleet of miniature robotic cars to drive on a multi-lane track and observed how the traffic flow changed when one of the cars stopped.
When the cars were not driving cooperatively, any cars behind the stopped car had to stop or slow down and wait for a gap in the traffic, as would typically happen on a real road. A queue quickly formed behind the stopped car and overall traffic flow was slowed.
However, when the cars were communicating with each other and driving cooperatively, as soon as one car stopped in the inner lane, it sent a signal to all the other cars. Cars in the outer lane that were in immediate proximity of the stopped car slowed down slightly so that cars in the inner lane were able to quickly pass the stopped car without having to stop or slow down significantly.
Additionally, when a human-controlled driver was put on the ‘road’ with the autonomous cars and moved around the track in an aggressive manner, the other cars were able to give way to avoid the aggressive driver, improving safety.
The results, to be presented this week at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Montréal, will be useful for studying how autonomous cars can communicate with each other, and with cars controlled by human drivers, on real roads in the future.
Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.