A small number of self-organizing autonomous vehicles significantly increases traffic flow

Video: Bar-Ilan University

Adding a few autonomous vehicles into traffic can reduce traffic jams and create safer, greener driving conditions, according to a study conducted Dr. Amir Goldental and Prof. Ido Kanter, from the Department of Physics at Bar-Ilan University.

The researchers suggest guidelines for efficient regulations, such that AVs can cooperate and significantly enhance traffic flow even when fewer than 5% of the vehicles on the road are autonomous, as seen in the accompanying image. In their article, the researchers describe how AVs should behave on a freeway in order to self-organize into groups that split the traffic flow into controllable clusters. It was observed that it takes less than two minutes to achieve self-organized high-speed, greener and safer traffic flow when starting from congested traffic.

"Without regulations on AVs, we face a classic example of game theory paradox, such as the prisoner's dilemma, where each vehicle tries to optimize its driving speed but the overall traffic flow is not optimal. In our research we examine how, with proper regulations, a very small number of AVs can improve the overall traffic flow significantly, through cooperation," says Dr. Goldental.

Quantitatively, the authors report a substantial increase of up to 40% in traffic flow speed with up to a 28% decrease in fuel consumption. Also, traffic safety is enhanced as traffic becomes more ordered and fewer lane transitions occur. The study shows that these improvements can be achieved without a central agent that governs AVs and without communication between AVs using current infrastructure.