26 January 2015

Driverless cars 'could increase congestion' - study

Driverless cars could result in worse congestion in cities if and when they become widespread, writes Brian Byrne.

That's a conclusion of a simulation study carried out by the Imperial College in London, which found that driving conditions at intersections would be more quickly negotiated by cars with active drivers.

The researchers tried a number of different scenarios, mostly by changing how the traffic lights at intersections operated. In all cases, the simulated exercises showed slower negotiation of the intersections if cars were driverless and relying on their sensor systems to operate.

The main reason is because the driverless cars would be designed to stop and accelerate more smoothly than is done by drivers, for the comfort of passengers. Therefore, the slowest vehicle in a line crossing an intersection will dictate the speed of all other vehicles.

(The image above is a Mercedes-Benz representation of how its driverless cars might be laid out for occupants.)