Autonomous Cars Might Be Three Times As Efficient

How efficient could autonomous cars be? 

Devin Coldewey, Robot cars could increase highway efficiency 273 percent: Study

The paper is being presented this week at an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) conference on vehicular technology. Its author, Columbia University’s Patcharinee Tientrakool, wrote her dissertation on a method for cars to communicate safely and reliably that she calls “reliable neighborcast protocol,” or RNP.

Research in self-driving vehicles has naturally focused on how to make the car imitate an intelligent driver: recognizing and navigating obstacles, reading signs and performing other common tasks. If there were only going to be a single such vehicle on the road, surrounded by human-guided cars, then that’s the most important thing to perfect. But what if nearly every car on the road is a robo-car?

Tientrakool’s paper looks at the difference in efficiency between when autonomous vehicles don’t communicate and when they act as a team. She concludes that cars simply managing their own speed would increase efficiency by an appreciable 43 percent, but if they were working together, that number jumps to a staggering 273 percent.

Forget the idea of more cars in the same section of highway. That’s interesting, maybe, but more like the dog walking on its hind legs. The interesting thing should be using less gas to cover the same ground, and doing so in less time.

Yes, reducing congestion might be a factor in Beijing or Sao Paolo, at present, but the worldwide imperatives are reducing energy consumption, decreased collisions, and getting time back for commuters.

Swarms of cars, communicating, using swarm logic to minimize congestion and maximize throughput. Next: nanobots to clean out teeth!

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