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Driverless cars could cut traffic delays

Driverless cars could significantly reduce traffic delays, according to a new study by the Department for Transport.

The project used computer software to create virtual models of different parts of the road network, including urban roads and a 20km motorway section. It examined different scenarios including the level of automation, the proportion of vehicles fitted with driverless technology, and different automated driving styles.

Broadly, it demonstrated that driverless cars offer major potential benefits when the proportion of them on the road is higher than the proportion of older, more traditional vehicles.

  • On major roads, where traditional vehicles outnumbered automated vehicles, the benefits were relatively small. But they increased as the percentage of driverless cars on the roads increased – when measuring peak traffic periods with a maximum of up to 100% of driverless vehicles, journey times reduced by more than 11% and delays were cut by more than 40%.
  • On urban roads, benefits were seen in peak traffic periods even with low levels of automated vehicles. The benefits included a 12% improvement in delays and a 21% improvement in journey time reliability.

“This exciting and extensive study shows that driverless cars could vastly improve the flow of traffic in our towns and cities, offering huge benefits to motorists including reduced delays and more reliable journey times,” Transport Minister Johns Hayes said.

“Driverless cars are just one example of cutting edge technology which could transform the way in which we travel in the future, particularly in providing new opportunities for those with reduced mobility. This study reinforces our belief that these technologies offer major benefits and this government will support their research.

As well as this study, the Department for Transport along with the Centre for Connected Autonomous Vehicles is publishing a response to a consultation on insurance for driverless cars. It details proposals to extend compulsory motor insurance to include the use of automated vehicles, and aims to establish a model where an insurer would cover both the driver’s use of the vehicle and the driverless vehicle technology itself. These proposals are intended to be taken through the Modern Transport Bill.Text here ...