A fleet of driverless cars working together to keep traffic moving smoothly can improve overall traffic flow by at least 35 percent, researchers have shown.
The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, programmed a small fleet of miniature robotic cars to drive on a multi-lane track and observed how the traffic flow changed when one of the cars stopped.
When the cars were not driving cooperatively, any cars behind the stopped car had to stop or slow down and wait for a gap in the traffic, as would typically happen on a real road. A queue quickly formed behind the stopped car and overall traffic flow was slowed.
However, when the cars were communicating with each other and driving cooperatively, as soon as one car stopped in the inner lane, it sent a signal to all the other cars. Cars in the outer lane that were in immediate proximity of the stopped car slowed down slightly so that cars in the inner lane were able to quickly pass the stopped car without having to stop or slow down significantly.