For years, people have been trying to come up with solutions to eliminate traffic the world over. Yet, the jams continue. Now CGP Grey, a YouTube video producer claims to have a solution. His suggestion is that the traffic problems exist because of driver reaction times. As each driver moves, so their reaction time can delay when the next person gets to go, and as a result you get gridlock in towns and slowdowns on the highways, even once a distraction or obstruction is gone.
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The solution, according to Grey, is self-driving cars, which can eliminate reaction time problems and eventually communicate with other cars and infrastructure, possibly even removing the need for traffic signals.
It’s a Good Point, But Will It Work?
Grey makes several really good points that other groups seem to support. In fact, various studies have found that the way in which drivers react in traffic can cause and exacerbate flow issues. Self-driving cars, though, have advanced communication abilities which means they have the potential to open up new possibilities for the management of traffic, something MIT is already working on. However, all of these possible solutions still have some way to go in alleviating congestion.
Certainly, self-driving vehicles have come a very long way, but they are still not ready to replace human drivers. At the moment, there aren’t any vehicles available that can be operated in a semi-autonomous mode without the help of an alert operator behind the wheel just in case anything goes wrong. Even cars from Infiniti or Mercedes that have semi-auto capabilities won’t operate for very long in those modes with no hands on the wheel. What’s more, the most advanced self-driving technology developer, Tesla, has certainly seen its fair share of autopilot crashes.
Vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle technologies are vital for the autonomous plan to work, but they have yet to reach the market. In fact, Audi only recently announced limited vehicle-to-infrastructure technology in just two of its models. The technology, to date, is further hampered by a lack of standards to ensure that vehicles and infrastructure can communicate. Without such standards, it is near impossible to have the signal-less world that Grey envisions.
But, It Can Happen Down the Line
Well the traffic jam-free and autonomous world that Grey imagines is well into the future, but he does touch on a few important things that could help alleviate congestion now. For instance, maintaining a good distance between vehicles and remaining alert is good advice for humans. They are methods that can help reduce traffic snarls and make driving safer.
There are already a couple of simpler technology solutions to help reduce traffic. Traffic lights with sensors, for example, can recognise large jams of cars and alert nearby signals which in turn helps speed up traffic. This solution requires much simpler communication on the infrastructure side only, making it far easier to implement right now.
But, we live in hope that one day we will see the death of the traffic jam. For now, we will settle for small improvements.