The ability of driverless cars to signal each other and ‘work together’ to reduce congestion could have a huge impact on city traffic jams.
Cambridge University researchers found that if cars drive ‘cooperatively’, they can reduce vehicle flow by up to 35%.
The researchers also found that the vehicles were able to ‘deal with’ human drivers, even when they drive aggressively.
The team of researchers at Cambridge University programmed 16 miniature robotic cars to drive around a two-lane track and observed how the traffic flow changed when one of the cars stopped.
When the cars were not driving co-operatively, any vehicles 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.
When the cars were communicating with each other and driving co-operatively, as soon as one car stopped in the inner lane, it sent a signal to all the other vehicles.
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Cars in the outer lane that were near to the stopped car slowed down slightly so that vehicles in the inner lane were able to quickly pass the stopped car without having to stop or slow down significantly.
When a human-controlled car was put on the track with the autonomous cars and moved around in an aggressive manner, the other cars were able to give way to avoid the
The study’s co-author Michael He, an undergraduate student at Cambridge’s St John’s College, said: ‘Autonomous cars could fix a lot of different problems associated with driving in cities, but there needs to be a way for them to work together.’
Co-author Nicholas Hyldmar, an undergraduate student at Downing College, said: ‘If different automotive manufacturers are all developing their own autonomous cars with their own software, those cars all need to communicate with each other effectively.’