By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
Combine talking cars with self-driving cars and you get a highway of the future that's super efficient.
If the highway of the future is filled with self-driving cars, cities will be able to do something that only happens in their dreams: increase the number of vehicles a highway can handle without building expensive new highways or adding more lanes.
How? When cars become adept at communicating with one another through technology they will be able to drive on the same strip of highway, really close together (think of it like terrible traffic jam, except you're actually moving fast or a flock of birds that pollutes). Combine talking cars with cars that drive themselves and you're looking at a super efficient highway.
A new paper presented by Columbia University's Patcharinee Tientrakool at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference, compares the safe driving distance and resulting highway capacity for three scenarios: on highways with 100 percent manual cars, 100 percent cars with sensors that automatically brake, and 100 percent self-driving cars. Here are the results of Tientrakool's research:
If 100 percent of cars use vehicle-to-vehicle communication highway capacity increases by 43 percent. If all cars are also autonomous and talk to each other that capacity increases by an impressive 273 percent.
At this point, vehicle-to-vehicle communication is the next innovation in vehicle technology that, in the near future, is most likely to see something close to the 100 percent use hypothesized in the research. Talking cars will moderately (though not insignificantly) increase highway capacity, as well as keep drivers safe. And while self-driving cars might be a long way out (though Google is narrowing the gap), it's clear that when they are widely implemented it will be a game changer. Not only will they make highways more efficient and save on gas by making traffic jams obsolete, but, at least from what we've observed so far, they will be really safe.
With all the money that's saved by not building new highways (or widening them) maybe more of the transportation budget can go to transit and other alternative transportation options.
Photo: Flickr/Melissa Venable
Related on SmartPlanet:
- One step closer to KITT: cars that talk to each other
- Communicating cars to be tested by U.S. government
- Will Google’s self-driving car lead to more sprawl?
- Watch as a blind man drives Google’s self-driving car
- Nevada first to approve guidelines for self-driving cars
Sep 11, 2012
Automobile manufacturers are determined to make cars smarter (communicate) so they can travel more quickly together. They'd prefer you put miles on your cars, wearing them out, wearing out the tires, burning fuel (or electricity), wearing out the breaks. Built-in obsolescence is perceived necessary for the success of their industry. But there will always be road hazards such as flat tires, wind gusts and vehicle performance issues. Also, the "self diagnostics" each manufacturer deploys to determine whether the cars are operating safely will have differences and have "bugs" which together may contribute to larger, more dangerous high speed pile-ups. There are other means to improve the driving experience, relieve and speed traffic, and increase the fuel efficiency of each passenger mile. Essentially we get to work and back driving our 100-300 lb butts around in 1,000-5,000+ lb vehicles. Force = mass x acceleration. Today's means to get from home to work or to the store with what we need is really extremely inefficient. The society, the economy that will approach solutions in new ways will outshine other economies unwilling to change. We commuters need to get from point A to point B and back with everything we need, either already there or hauled along with us to do our business. We like flexibility - and sometimes need it, such as to run errands or to take alternate ways home in case of emergencies and disasters. So public transportation (whether publicly funded or not) requires some tweaks. I'd suggest readers become aware of such options as http://www.solatrek.com/main.html that - if deployed - could save commuters time, save miles on their vehicles, save energy, save on expensive highway expansion in congested areas - such as my Southern California, yet provide ultimate flexibility. It is a shame that China has built thousands of miles of high speed rail yet we in the US have not built one mile. Numerous and affluent coastal residents of California are going to be shortchanged with plans to build out first high speed rail through inland San Bernadino. An AVT-Train system (admittedly medium speed rail) along the coast, from San Diego to San Francisco would do far more to connect and revitalize California's high tech economy than anything through the central part of the state. It would also set a wonderful example to the rest of the nation and the world as to how new technologies, rather than old technologies with a face-lift, could change society for the better by placing less burden on the planet while improving our standard of living.