Autonomous Vehicles on Traffic Flow

Over the next two decades, the global automobile industry is going to face major transformation as three important technologies—autonomous driving, MaaS (Mobility as a Service), and battery electrification—converge. One of the most anticipated consumer product developments is autonomous vehicles (AVs), and the wait is getting shorter. The overall effects are anticipated to be significant as this technology becomes more accessible. The automotive, smart city, transportation, and other related industries stand to benefit greatly from the promising, quickly evolving, and game-changing autonomous driving technology. Let's have a quick look where this autonomous vehicle idea comes from. 

At the 1939 World's Fair, General Motors developed the first self-driving vehicle model. It was a radio-controlled electromagnetic field-guided electric vehicle that ran on magnetized metal spikes embedded in the road. This model was built in 1958. The vehicle was built with sensors that could detect electricity flowing through a cable embedded in the road. And of course, these developments have taken revolutionary paths since then.

There has been incremental, but steady, progress in the development of autonomous and automated cars. Autonomous vehicles will most likely be common in most countries over the next few years. Will their introduction help to improve traffic flow when combined with conventional vehicles? Nowadays, cities are seeing a rise in urbanization, which has multiple effects that influence several themes, but particularly urban mobility; as the number of people using vehicles increases, so does congestion and CO2 emissions. The increased circulation of private vehicles causes a decrease in average speed travel, which affect the entire city context and thus its liveability.

When a large number of vehicles move into infrastructure that was not designed for that capacity, the probability of collision increases due to the increased interaction, compromising people safety. There are also several examples of traffic congestion in our daily lives. It continues to rise in metropolitan areas, generating significant economic losses as well as delays, reduced service levels, and discomfort while commuting. When the automobiles do not cooperate, any cars behind the stopped car must stop or slow down and wait for a break in the traffic, just as it would on a real road. A line immediately gathered behind the halted car, delaying overall traffic movement.

  • ADAS and automated driving can assist in reducing human mistakes and thereby improving safety, traffic performance, and fuel efficiency: Higher levels of autonomy can help to eliminate risky driving habits. Drunk, drugged driving, unbelted vehicle occupants, speeding and reducing distraction may have the greatest potential.
  •  They will maintain a safe and steady spacing between vehicles, reducing the frequency of stop-and-go waves that cause traffic congestion.
  • Fewer traffic congestion save fuel and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from unproductive idling.
  • Some studies also say that by presence of AV with V2V and V2I communication, vehicle platooning can be practiced which can practically reduce the gap between vehicles in a platoon. As a result, the road fleet capacity may increase. As a result, the number of lanes can be decreased (with denser but steady road) and can be replaced by broader sidewalks and bicycle lanes. In other words, passenger can be motivated to utilize environmentally more friendly transport modes.


Despite these listed positive and encouraging factors, autonomous transportation raises some concerns too, including as the loss of situational awareness, over-reliance on automation and loss of driving abilities critical to manual human control, when needed. The future is ultimately uncertain, but planning requires predicting impending conditions and demands. Many decision-makers, practitioners and passengers are concerned how autonomous vehicles could affect future demands. Let’s see the FUTURE!