Phantom Traffic: Self-Driving Cars Versus The Nightmare Commute

Sometimes, traffic is a nightmare! And often we wonder what causes it and how to prevent it. Whether you are driving to work, school, vacation, or just about anywhere, you are bound to find congestion on the road. Now, what is the cause of this congestion? Other people in traffic aggressively adjusting their speed or even hitting the brakes too hard. However, self-driving cars and adaptive cruise control, along with other safe practices on the road, can help alleviate this congestion. With these new revelations from studies done by Ford, as well as a group of researchers funded by the National Science Foundation, we could see a potential reduction of traffic congestion and fuel consumption.

The Article suggests that “phantom” congestion isn’t as mysterious as it seems. If a driver slows down or makes a sudden stop, a domino effect of drivers aggressively adjusting speed or even braking occurs. This domino effect can go as far as 20 miles or more in some cases. This is the true cause of the stop-and-go traffic you see on your commute to work.

Please note, a study done by the National Science Foundation shows evidence that having a single self-driving car on the road can affect at least 20 other vehicles around it. This is because the self-driving car will adjust its speed accordingly, influencing the traffic flow around it. Ford performed a similar study that showed cruise control can have a similar effect.

Another problematic issue with traffic is the unnecessary burning of fuel. Since everyone keeps their car running when in traffic, fuel continues to burn. If the stop and go aspect was reduced or removed, fuel consumption can be reduced by 40 percent. Another effect of better traffic flow is fewer accidents due to braking events. Isn’t that neat!

With technology progressing, traffic jams, accidents, and fuel consumption can reduce. Self-driving cars and adaptive cruise control can help other drivers reduce speeds, making aggressive stopping and going occur less often. This can potentially lead to safer driving conditions, reducing the stresses of commuting to work.

To learn more about this issue go to the USA Today Article here.

Works Cited

Brown, Dalvin. “How Self-Driving Car or Adaptive Cruise Control Could Ease Traffic Jams.” USA TODAY, 5 June 2018.