Driverless cars could significantly reduce 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 UK road network including urban roads and a 20km motorway section.
Delays and traffic flow were all shown to improve as the proportion of automated vehicles increased above specific levels.
The study demonstrates 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.
According to the DfT, this study is an important first step towards understanding the full range of complex effects of these technologies. It paves the way for further trials and research to help ensure the transition to driverless or automated vehicles is safe and beneficial for all.
Transport Minister Johns Hayes (pictured left) said: “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.
“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.”
The study examined different scenarios including the level of automation, the proportion of vehicles equipped with the technology and different automated driving styles.
The main findings of the report included that:
- On major roads where traditional vehicles outnumbered automated vehicles benefits are relatively small, but increase as the percentage of driverless cars on the roads increases – when measuring peak traffic periods with a maximum of up to 100% of driverless vehicles the DfT saw journey times reduced by more than 11% and delays cut by more than 40%
- On urban roads benefits are seen in peak traffic periods even with low levels of automated vehicles on roads – benefits include a 12% improvement in delays and a 21% improvement in journey time reliability.
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.
The response details proposals to extend compulsory motor insurance to include the use of automated vehicles. The response 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.
The survey report was commissioned by the Department for Transport and carried out by Atkins.