Even One Autonomous Car Could Alleviate Our Traffic Issues

MIT Technology Review, on the topic of having even a small amount of autonomous cars introduced into our streets:

The team’s results show that by having an autonomous vehicle control its speed intelligently when a phantom jam starts to propagate, it’s possible to reduce the amount of braking performed further back down the line. The numbers are impressive: the presence of just one autonomous car reduces the standard deviation in speed of all the cars in the jam by around 50 percent, and the number of sharp hits to the brakes is cut from around nine per vehicle for every kilometer traveled to at most 2.5—and sometimes practically zero.
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It’s interesting that these improvements can occur even with a single vehicle in a flow of 20 other cars. And it’s also worth noting that the level of autonomy required to have this effect isn’t the kind that Waymo, Uber, and others are seeking to build—it’s more akin to the adaptive cruise control already featured in many higher-end cars. So while we might have to wait a little longer for all of autonomy’s effects to be felt, its ability to reduce traffic congestion could be here rather sooner than we anticipated.