Researchers from the University of Cambridge conclude on the basis of a trail with mutually communicating robot model cars that the flow of traffic can improve by at least 35 percent once the cars work together.
The relatively simple, curvy course has two carriageways and about fifteen model cars that are all programmed to drive in the same direction. The researchers tested , among other things, what happens when a car suddenly stops. In the situation that the robot cars do not communicate with each other, a line quickly emerged and the flow was delayed. If the cars were connected, they managed to keep the flow going in the same situation.
The latter is because the car stopping in the inner lane sends a signal to the other cars. Cars in the vicinity of the outer lane responded to this by braking slightly, creating space for cars in the inner lane to pass the stationary car and insert it into the outer lane. That way, these cars did not have to come to a halt or slow down considerably.
A scenario has also been tested in which a single car was driven by a human driver in an aggressive manner, with frequent overtaking and changing jobs. The other autonomously driving cars responded by giving space to the aggressive driver, which benefits road safety.
For the model, the robot cars are equipped with motion sensors and a Raspberry Pi, so that they can communicate with each other via WiFi. Subsequently, an existing algorithm, intended for autonomous cars that had to change lanes, was adjusted. This allowed the cars to respond to driving in a fleet of cars. A second algorithm was used to detect a looming car and to respond by giving space.
According to the researchers, the relatively simple model is needed because it is important to know how autonomous cars that communicate with each other respond to each other and what that means for traffic flow and safety. The researchers want to use the model in the future to test safety and traffic flow with the simultaneous deployment of different car systems and the addition of more jobs, crossings and different car types.