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Self-driving cars can fix phantom traffic jams
Self-driving cars can fix phantom traffic jams
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'One self-driving car can already prevent traffic jams'

A single self-driving car is enough to prevent traffic jams without a cause. That's what the American University of Michigan concludes after researching the partly self-driving cars that are already on the market, reports Wired. Brands such as Audi, Mercedes and Tesla already have cars that can follow the vehicle ahead on the motorway. These systems are not sensitive to the so-called phantom traffic jams and can even solve the phenomenon in small numbers.
autonomous car with normal cars on the road
Phantom traffic jams are the phenomenon where one driver brakes, his rear member sees after a fraction and brakes harder, and so on. This creates congestion without the traffic being established for a good reason. "If one driver brakes too aggressively, the person has to come to a complete stop on ten cars", says principal investigator Gabor Orosz. The presence of a single partly self-driving car can break that ‘wave motion’ and thus prevent the phantom backup.

Softer brakes

Cars must have a 5G connection for this, to quickly receive data about other road users. In the Netherlands, such 5G compounds are already being tested.

The University's experiment was driven around with eight normal-looking cars that could share their position and speed with each other through 5G. One of the eight cars could also brake independently. When a test car with a human driver slowed down in traffic, the wave motion of the traffic jam began. But because the partly self-driving test car already knew that cars braked further away, he could quietly slow down. This also slowed the human drivers behind him and the phantom traffic jam was solved before it could occur.

More environmentally friendly

The occurrence of phantom traffic jams is also favorable for energy consumption. Running smoothly and at the same speed is much more economical and environmentally friendly for both traditional and electric cars than brakes and accelerators.

Floris Poort, cover photo: iStock