Autonomous, zero-emission ‘robo-taxis’ offer the potential for convenient, personalised transport as an alternative to owning a car or using public transport. But without changes in regulation, this new form of transport is likely to increase congestion in cities.
That’s according to a new analysis by Arthur D. Little (ADL) which found that whether robo-taxis alleviate or worsen congestion will depend on two main factors: traffic rules and the proportion of autonomous to human-driven vehicles.
As an article for the World Economic Forum explains, the management consulting firm developed an in-depth mathematical model to simulate the capacity impact of autonomous cars.
This showed that, with 100% autonomous driving and a radical adaptation of traffic rules to suit it, road capacity would increase by a factor of 10 in most situations compared with today. Adding in further safety margins gives an increased capacity of between five and 10 times.
By contrast, with 100% autonomous driving and no adaptation of the rules, capacity would shrink by around 25% due to today’s rules around safe stopping distances, which are based on human behaviour. Modest adaptation would increase capacity, but not by as much, ADL said.
Similarly, with autonomous vehicles and human drivers sharing the road under current traffic rules, capacity would decrease. Adapting the traffic rules would only provide a slight increase in capacity in mixed traffic conditions.
These findings suggest that the only way to effectively address road capacity problems with autonomous vehicles is to switch to 100% autonomous driving and reduce the safety distances between cars – at least at peak times or on the busiest roads.
This is something that authorities will need to consider sooner rather than later because robo-taxis could be here within two years, according to self-driving technology supplier Mobileye. The company’s chief executive Amnon Shashua told CNBC that the first phase of autonomous driving will come in the form of taxi services which are expected to be available in early 2022.
The consumer market will come later – around 2025 – due to regulatory and cost constraints, Shashua said.
Autonomous vehicles will depend on superfast, always on, ubiquitous connectivity. Our Next-generation connectivity report explores how the next generation of wired and wireless connectivity, including 5G mobile networks, full-fibre broadband and satellite internet technology, will impact transport & automotive and other key sectors. Download your free copy now!
Tags: autonomous vehicles