Driverless cars could ‘significantly reduce delays’ if they become the lead mode of transport, according to a new study by the DfT.
Published on 6 January, the DfT study used computer software to create virtual models of different parts of the UK road network including urban roads and a 20km motorway section.
The study examined different scenarios including the level of automation, the proportion of vehicles equipped with the technology and different automated driving styles.
The results show that delays and traffic flow will improve as the proportion of automated vehicles increases.
When comparing existing peak traffic data on major roads with a situation where 100% of vehicles were autonomous, journey times reduced by as much as 11%, with delays cut by more than 40%.
When 75% and 50% of vehicles were ‘driverless’, journey times reduced by 2.2% and 1.1% respectively.
However, where traditional vehicles outnumber automated vehicles (25%), benefits were shown to be relatively small; while the average journey time fell by 0.2%, average delays rose by 0.9%.
The DfT describes the study as an ‘important first step’ towards understanding the full range of complex effects of this technology, and paves the way for further trials and research to help ensure the transition to driverless or automated vehicles is safe and beneficial for all.
John Hayes, transport minister, 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 RAC welcomed the study, describing it as ‘useful’ but pointed out that traffic flow benefits only really kick in when there is mass take up of autonomous vehicles.
Rod Dennis. RAC spokesman, said: “While we are still a long way from autonomous vehicles being commonplace on our roads, this report is useful in modelling what the advantages could be as the technology takes off.
“The report recognises that only when there is mass take-up of connected and autonomous vehicles will the benefits relating to traffic flow really kick in.
“Reports like this make a strong case for the Government’s emphasis on making the UK a leader in driverless vehicle technology, but deeper engagement with motorists on the benefits driverless vehicles could bring will also be crucial to encourage their adoption.”