Thinking Tech

How just a few talking cars can end traffic jams

How just a few talking cars can end traffic jams

Posting in Technology

Road congestion can be greatly alleviated if as few as 5 out of every 1000 cars were linked up.

With so many cars on the road these days, we've simply accepted traffic jams as one of life's inevitable annoyances.

But increasing gridlock isn't only a problem for drivers and their surrounding communities, it also affects entire nations as a whole. According to statistics from the German Automobile Club, drivers in the country experienced 185,000 traffic jams last year. This amounted to nearly 9 million gallons (33 million liters) in additional fuel consumption and an economic loss of over $430 million dollars (300 million Euros) every day.

However, with so much high tech communications technologies at our disposal, there's no reason to believe it has to be this way. A good example is a new feature that Google Maps' rolled out back in March, which can evaluate real-time traffic data and suggest alternative routes. Now a new study, conducted by German automaker Opel, suggests road congestion can be greatly alleviated if as few as 5 out of every 1000 cars were linked up.

The researchers reached their conclusion based on their findings that putting into operation such a fractionally small percentage would be enough to generate a reliable picture of real-time traffic flow. With this data, congested traffic, road works or other local obstructions can be spotted early and relayed to drivers to avoid delays and hazards.

“Location-specific traffic information and warnings in real time can help to remedy this (gridlock), while simultaneously increasing road safety,” explained Nick Reilly, Chairman of the Opel Supervisory board. "Less congestion means less wasted time, reduced fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions.”

For the study, investigators equipped demonstration vehicles with sensors and a communications system that enabled them to exchange data via local wireless networks in accordance with the new WLAN standard IEEE 802.11p. They were then tested on a trial route in the Rhine-Main region that was furnished with a traffic management infrastructure comprised of “roadside units” as well as a traffic control center.

At the end of a one year testing period, the results were collected and analyzed. The company says that the details of their findings will undergo further evaluation and be presented to the public at a later date.

The study was carried out as part of the company's Dynamic Information and Application for Mobility with Adaptive Networks and Telematics infrastructure or DIAMANT project.

(via press release)

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure