Driverless cars are on their way. They’re already being tested on the streets of Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and manufacturers from BMW to Google expect to roll them out in the next five years. We will see Level 3 autonomy on the Audi A8 later this year, whilst a consortium led by software developers Oxbotica recently announced plans to test driverless cars on the UK’s road network in 2019.
The move from non-autonomous to fully autonomous vehicles will be a gradual process. But when they do arrive, these futuristic machines will bring a multitude of benefits along with them. They’re likely to make roads safer, given that driver error contributes to three-quarters of all accidents. They could improve productivity, freeing drivers up to do other work as they travel. They will offer greater independence to those who can’t drive.
But one of the biggest benefits of driverless cars is, perhaps, not so obvious: making journeys quicker. A study by the Department for Transport predicted that, if all cars become fully autonomous, peak journey times will be reduced by 11% and the amount of time stuck in traffic will be reduced by 40%.
How will going driverless help speed up traffic flows? It’s mostly do with the fact that an autonomous car can keep a consistent distance from the one in front, adjusting its speed as required. This helpful, short video by CGP Grey explains it nicely
As the video shows, driverless cars could bring an end to traffic jams. But it also indicates how drivers can help to reduce congestion in the meantime, just by changing their behaviour. If we could all stay a consistent, safe distance behind the car in front, all our journeys would be so much smoother.