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Autonomous Vehicles Can Improve Traffic Conditions

Updated on April 30, 2020
Ralph Hall profile image

Ralph is focused on technology with a demonstrated history of working in multiple industries.

Data shows that vehicles networked together, along with GPS and other sensors, improve traffic conditions.

Research suggests that Autonomous Vehicles can improve traffic conditions because they can make more logical decisions that emphasize safety and efficiency while benefiting the environment and saving money.

Data shows that vehicles networked together, along with GPS and other sensors, improve traffic conditions. Traffic congestion and accidents are becoming increasingly more of an issue due to population growth and migration into dense urban areas. To manage this situation, an approach taken from IT could improve how people travel in the near future. Traffic management utilizing connected car and sensor technology could decrease the amount of time on the road. One study found that "42 hours were spent in congestion by the average US commuter." (Inrix, 2016). Vehicles managed on an internet/GPS network will experience more efficient routes with fewer collisions and less energy consumption. Vehicular ad-hoc networks (VANETs) can apply detection and avoidance of dangerous or problematic traffic conditions. The benefits of connected vehicles can be experienced even with only the use of in-dash or smartphone GPS. Just knowing traffic conditions and ETA can significantly increase awareness on the road. Monitoring vehicle movement and optimizing the flow of traffic is part of the Cisco Kinetic program that "provides real-time configurable vehicle counts and vehicle classification while producing a wide range of traffic density information". Cisco (2017). More effective city planning starts with controlling vehicle presence, maintaining road conditions, and protecting pedestrians in a logistics lifecycle that manages population growth.


A driver-less car used in a field study at the University of Arizona was programmed to select a consistent speed to lessen the impact of stop and go traffic

Waymo has been emphasizing safety with its autonomous technology since 2009 initially under Google branding until December 13th, 2016, when its name changed to Waymo LLC under the new parent company, Alphabet. Testing on public roads for self-driving cars is legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia as of April 2017. In Nevada, Florida, California, and Michigan, driverless testing is permitted. During this time, the test cars were involved in 14 accidents, 13 of them caused by humans. "Test drivers who monitor the vehicles can take over driving if needed—they call this a 'disengage.'" (Waymo, 2016). There is a focus on technology, but educating the consumer on relearning a new way to drive will change the culture of how cars are currently seen as status symbols to being seen as appliances of urban mobility.

Enhancing driving efficiency while providing real-time data is part of the ecosystem of telematics and autonomy. Baseline Telematics "turns driving data into actionable metrics for insurance companies." Jasper.com (2017). This gives the driver feedback on their driving habits and provides reports to allow insurance companies to offer discounts based on driving data. Systems such as GMs OnStar and Chryslers Uconnect receive and send messages about onboard internal systems and external factors that regularly update to give the most efficient route. Jasper Control Center, an automated monitoring solution, provides insight into connected vehicle services. The system manages data traffic and network security, ensuring information is protected while maintaining communications with roadside sensors and vehicle safety features.


Relearning to drive

There is a focus on technology, but educating the consumer on relearning a new way to drive will change the culture of how cars are currently seen as status symbols to being seen as appliances of urban mobility.

As each safety feature of driving assistance is added to new vehicles, such as Crash Avoidance and Forward Collision Systems-more emphasis is put on managing a system that that supports logistics and environmental responsibility. The Society of Automotive Engineers published in 2014, a classification system "clarifying the role of the human driver, if any, during driving automation system engagement" SAE, (2016). The current standard defines the level of engagement from the system and expectations of intervention from the driver. Field testing on public transportation automation systems "aims to integrate passenger connection protection, dynamic scheduling, dispatching, routing of transit vehicles, and dynamic ridesharing into a single system that benefits both travelers and operators" US DOT, (2015). SAE will be a crucial organization in familiarizing both the public and the transportation industry with a comprehensive set of automation safety operations. Also, traffic flow will increase as SAEs Levels of Autonomy are achieved while experiencing decreased events of road rage, rubbernecking, and texting while driving.



Saving money is an inherent effect of the combined technologies of autonomous and connected electric vehicles.

A driver-less car used in a field study at the University of Arizona was programmed to select a consistent speed to lessen the impact of stop and go traffic. This method can reduce CO2 emissions and increase overall air quality and pollution. Being aware of traffic flow, road conditions, and driving patterns can contribute to a smoother constant pace, reducing stop, and go traffic. Research suggests, "even if only five percent of vehicles on the highway were autonomous, it would still improve both traffic flow and fuel consumption" (Rieland, 2017).

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) are implementing an algorithm that could reduce CO2 levels. Bilateral Control, keeps an equal distance between vehicles similar to a flock of birds in flight. "The cost of congestion in the US is estimated to be around $121 billion per annum (that's $820 per commuter), with 11 billion liters of fuel wasted, and 25.4 billion kg of extra CO2 emitted". (Winkless, 2017). Adding sensors to the back bumper will give cars eyes to the rear to communicate with vehicles behind it, maintaining the space needed to keep traffic flowing, saving energy.


More effective city planning starts with controlling vehicle presence, maintaining road conditions, and protecting pedestrians in a logistics lifecycle that manages population growth

Saving money is an inherent effect of the combined technologies of autonomous and connected electric vehicles. I used to drive a 2017 Chevy volt. I spent less than $60 on gas in a year. I save "$3,500 in fuel costs over five years compared to the average new vehicle" Fueleconomy.gov, (2017). The site is a great resource to use while crunching the numbers online for a car. Also, there are tips about how and where to charge plug-in hybrids and EVs. Side-by-side comparisons are also available to calculate fuel savings.

I also received a federal tax credit from the IRS and a rebate from my local utility provider, JEA.com (2017). If the federal and state government continue to participate, then more individuals will benefit financially. These incentives are an attractive byproduct of entering into the world of hybrids and EVs. As battery technology improves, more savings are accomplished through increased miles traveled on one charge.


Connected cars on the road right now are providing drivers with benefits such as lower fuel cost and insurance discounts by leveraging telematics, GPS, and internet connectivity. Furthermore, advanced safety features offer active and passive sensors that provide peace-of-mind and added awareness on the road. When autonomous vehicles become networked together, it will benefit the impending population surge in large metro areas by managing traffic patterns, reducing carbon emissions, and providing a better quality of life for pedestrians.

References


Cisco, (2017). Cisco Kinetic for Cities Urban Mobility. Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/dam/en/us/solutions/collateral/industry-solutions/at-a-glance-c45-739894.pdf

Cárdenas-Benítez, N., Aquino-Santos, R., Magaña-Espinoza, P., Aguilar-Velazco, J., Edwards-Block, A., & Medina Cass, A. (2016). Traffic Congestion Detection System through Connected Vehicles and Big Data. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 16(5), 599. doi:10.3390/s16050599

U.S. DOT, (2015, August 20). Estimated Benefits of Connected Vehicle Applications. Intelligent Transportation Systems. Retrieved from http://ntl.bts.gov/lib/56000/56200/56238/FHWA-JPO-16-255.pdf

Jasper. (2017). Control Center application for Connected Cars. Retrieved from https://www.jasper.com/customers/connected-cars/baseline-telematics-success-story

JEA. (2017). Electric Vehicle Incentives, https://www.jea.com/ways_to_save/go_green/plug-in_electric_vehicles/

Rieland, R. (2017, May 26). Just a Few Self-Driving Cars Could Fix Phantom Traffic Jams. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/few-self-driving-cars-could-fix-phantom-traffic-jams-180963472/

SAE, (2017). Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles. Retrieved from http://standards.sae.org/j3016_201609/

Traffic Scorecard. INRIX. Retrieved from http://inrix.com/resources/inrix-2016-traffic-scorecard-us/

U.S. DOE. Chevrolet Volt (2017) https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/Find.do?action=sbs&id=37309

Waymo. (2017). On the Road. Retrieved from https://waymo.com/ontheroad/

Winkless, L. (2017, December 15). If We All Stopped Tailgating, We Could Dramatically Cut Traffic Jams https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauriewinkless/2017/12/15/if-we-all-stopped-tailgating-we-could-dramatically-cut-traffic-jams/#6e2f3865770d

© 2020 Ralph

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