Here and SBD’s report says collaboration is key to avoid autonomous driving congestion

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A new report explores the impact that higher levels of vehicle automation and user adoption will have on traffic congestion, and how the auto industry can overcome the medium-term complexities of having both traditional and autonomous vehicles on the roadways.

A joint whitepaper published by cloud-based location company Here and industry analysts SBD argues that new levels of vehicle automation will increase traffic congestion in the foreseeable future, and it is up to the automotive industry to enhance its collaboration, in order to create a seamless transition as we reach these new levels of automation.

According to the authors, there are two main factors that will determine just how big an impact automated vehicles will have on traffic congestion; the first is the level of vehicle automation; the second is the corresponding level of user adoption. While basic levels of automation could have a small positive impact in helping to ease traffic congestion, higher levels of automation could have a detrimental effect on congestion when the user adoption rate is low.

In order to help mitigate the increase in congestion during these transition periods, the authors urge the entire automotive industry to shift away from ‘each-to-their-own’ autonomy, where each car is responsible for itself, and toward collaborative autonomous cars. This includes formalized efforts to break down information silos, and establish vehicle, road network and infrastructure data exchanges in conjunction with local, state and national transportation agencies.

The authors describe how levels of automation represent a sequence rather than a binary occurrence, where one day the roads will be exclusively filled with self-driving vehicle.

According to SBD, 11 million cars in Europe, the USA and China will be shipped in 2016 with driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking or lane keep assistance. Car manufacturers have announced a new generation of autonomous vehicles will be launched in 2020 that achieve Level 4 to 5 automation, allowing drivers to handover control to the vehicle.

“Autonomous cars have the potential in the long-term to revolutionize mobility and radically improve the safety of our roads,” explained co-author of the study and director at SBD Andrew Hart. “However, the journey toward the fully autonomous car is full of potholes, which may create short-term pains in unexpected ways. The automotive industry and road authorities will need to work carefully together to navigate around these potholes, in order to gain the trust of consumers and reap the societal benefits of this new technology.”

The other co-author of the study, Carrie Cox, senior product marketing manager at Here, commented, “The combined power of vehicle and road sensor data, autonomous vehicles, and sophisticated real-time location services, will ultimately decrease traffic congestion. But how we get to that objective, and what it takes to get there, in terms of building the necessary digital infrastructure at scale, is a call to action for all of us in the auto industry. Greater collaboration is needed to ensure drivers and road operators alike can seamlessly transition into the era of automated vehicles.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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