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Why Self-Driving Cars Could Worsen Traffic Congestion



A new study from the University of Adelaide predicts that self-driving cars could lead to more traffic congestion in the coming years. But why?

Autonomous vehicles have generated lots of hype and excitement in recent times, and it’s not hard to see why.

Experts believe that automation can reduce the number of crashes on our roads. Since 94 percent of road accidents result from driver behavior, removing the driver all together should create a smoother driving experience.

But, that may not be the case.

According to the researchers at the University of Adelaide, autonomous vehicles can worsen traffic congestion in the coming decades.

In a statement to the press, co-author of the study from the University of Adelaide’s School of Economics, Dr. Raul Barreto said:

“Autonomous or driverless vehicles are likely to have profound effects on cities. Being able to understand their impact will help to shape how our communities respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Here’s what the researchers discovered in their study.

Attitude Towards Car Sharing Could Worsen Traffic Congestion

For the study, the researchers used the City of Adelaide as a test model. They surveyed over 500 commuters, including a blend of people who go to work by car and public transit.

Along with the participants’ views on autonomous vehicle ownership and use, the researchers also collected data on vehicle sharing and attachment to conventional vehicles. Also, the team explored potential traffic flow with a blend of traditional and autonomous vehicles, as well as the and land-use change in the Adelaide CBD.

Using this data, the University of Adelaide team modeled the potential impacts of an autonomous vehicle on the city.

Dr. Barreto noted:

“Our evidence suggests that as riders switch to autonomous vehicles, there will be an adverse impact on public transport. With most commuters not interested in ride-sharing, this could increase peak period vehicle flows, which is likely to increase traffic congestion over the next 30 years or so.”

While the total number of vehicles on the road will eventually drop, the overall vehicle trips may increase, says the researcher. As a result, we may not experience some of the predicted benefits of self-driving cars until a long transition period.

The University of Adelaide team published their findings in the journal Urban Policy and Research.

Read More: Autonomous Cars to Become Widespread Within the Decade

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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