One Autonomous Car Is Enough To Prevent A Lot Of Traffic Jams

Even though we’re probably decades away from everybody owning a self-driving car, it turns out we don’t have to wait that long in order to reap the benefits of having a number of them on our roads.

Research by the University of Michigan shows that a single self-driving and connected car can help others avoid so-called “phantom traffic jams,” where human reaction time leads to traffic eventually coming to a halt. It only takes one driver to hit the brakes prematurely for whatever reason, and it can have a cascading effect.

Gabor Orosz, who lead the research, took his team as well as eight cars out on southeast Michigan roads in order to find a solution. All cars were equipped with the ability to broadcast their position and velocity, and one was chosen to act as the autonomous vehicle.

This car had the ability to apply the brakes only as much as necessary and as early as possible. The team then drove around at 55 mph (88 km/h) waiting for one of the human drivers to hit the brakes multiple times, each time harder than the last.

While the experiment resulted in other human drivers having to hit the brakes hard enough for the seat belt lock to engage, the connected car, thanks to having received advanced notification, started slowing down a lot more gently. In turn, the human drivers behind it were also able to do the same, thus avoiding anybody coming to a halt.

Moreover, this way of driving saved energy, by as much as 19% in the connected car, compared to 7% in the human-controlled vehicles behind it, as reported by Wired.

A similar experiment was conducted last year at the University of Illinois. The result showed that if one in 20 cars is at least partially automated, stop-and-go waves in traffic could be avoided.

While the Trump administration isn’t making vehicle-to-vehicle communication in all cars mandatory, like Obama’s plan proposed, automakers such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi or Cadillac are still moving ahead to further develop this technology.

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  • Dr Bjorn Von Strangefingger

    These autonomous vehicles are such complete fails so far!!!

    • Status

      Anything that can improve traffic flow is bonus to cities everywhere. What do you think is more likely? Automated traffic flow with V2V and V2I protocals, or human drivers sharing the road equability with one another and with resorting to road rage?

      • smartacus

        Autonomous tech that improves odds of hitting pedestrians is not a bonus to cities ANYWHERE.

        • Status

          You won’t say the same the next time someone rents a pickup.

    • smartacus


  • Jeff Archibald

    Research by morons. Millions of people with nothing better to do will, when relieved of actually driving, go places they would not have gone. Commuters can now sleep during drive time, so countless more commuters. Etc, etc, ect till gridlock.

    • Status

      But if all the cars are working in conjunction with one another, there wouldn’t be gridlock. Gridlock is a human product after all.

  • Ilbirs

    I do this when I see a traffic jam after watching this video:

    As can be seen, this video is from ten years ago and the guy that did it caught the patterns of a traffic jam, long before autonomous cars were such a subject as today. I’m applying this and what I can say is that the thing works specially when you gain experience.

    • Finkployd

      This is interesting indeed. And if people were more aware, it could really make a difference.
      But to a point; for on my journey to work I go though some so-so areas, let’s call it that way, and the amount of cheaters is off the charts. Not talking about ten cars merging in front of you, more like hundreds. Phantom traffic jams at every step. They don’t even respect redlights.
      So ultimately I think these autonomous cars WILL help the community a lot if they could take the wheel from some of these uncivilized turds

  • brn

    *cough* bull *cough* sh!t

    • smartacus

      indeed it is

    • john1168

      You beat me to it:) Bull $h!t indeed…

  • smartacus

    oh hai, i fix headline for u:
    One Autonomous Car Enough To Cause Pedestrian Accidents
    …there i fix for ya K’bye

  • Six_Tymes

    well, DUH. If it only takes one idiot to cause a traffic jam, then one constant could prevent. I wonder how much money they spent on that study?

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