Audi has just released a study titled “25th Hour – Flow” which claims that there will be no congestion in the city of the future. Audi conducted the study in partnership with Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) and the Munich consultancy MobilityPartners, as part of the research, they simulated the future of mobility in Ingolstadt/Germany and they say that thanks to technological innovations liked connected cars and autonomous vehicles as well as the widespread use of shared mobility, congestion will be a thing of the past in the cities of the future. The study projects that when traffic is fully automated, it can reduce commute times by a third, even when the number of people on the roads has increased by ten percent. This is provided that vehicle sharing becomes a trend that lasts.
When fleets of self-driving cars are used in tandem with the smarter traffic management systems and a higher occupancy rate for vehicles, traffic problems will no longer be an issue in cities. Just a slight increase in the number of people in a car from 1.1 to 1.3 persons due to more people sharing a car, will mean there is no more congestion during rush hour. In a fully automated, networked traffic system, more people (+12%) can be transported much more quickly (-33%) in commuter traffic.
The use of connected, automated and shared vehicles will also give urban development authorities more scope to use and reallocate space to improve the quality of life. One instance is the finding that use of fully autonomous vehicles could repurpose one traffic lane in a four-lane network. This new space can be dedicated to pedestrians or bicycles instead of vehicles. The study also considered that with the use of autonomous cars, those who are otherwise unable to drive like senior citizens and children without a driver’s license will have access to mobility, and convenient robo-taxis will compete with local public transportation.
Commenting on the results of the study, Melanie Goldmann, head of Trend Communication at Audi said that the study suggests that autonomous cars, mobility services, and networked infrastructure can go a long way towards reducing congestion and road space. It would also be more people like senior citizens and children to travel safely and conveniently, thus remarkably enhancing the quality of life in cities. She said that the findings of the study encourages Audi to continue its investment in the future: in self-driving cars like the Audi Aicon, and in services like Audi on demand, or networked technology like the Audi traffic-light information,” says.
The study also took into account more extreme scenario like the situation if many more people chose to walk or to use public transportation, or to cycle? It examined the effect of high levels of delivery traffic as a result of online shopping. Other scenarios considered were the effect if cities refused to permit the use of self-driving cars or dragged their feet regarding the digitalization of their infrastructure. The results ranged from shorter journey times in commuter traffic (-40%) to gridlock.
“The effects of connected and automated vehicles and of other technical and societal developments are continuously studied in the transportation research community. In most cases, the studies focus on single aspects of these developments in order to better identify the isolated effect of exactly that aspect alone. Our objective was different: We wanted to draw a picture of what mobility will look like when all these effects come together,” said Professor Peter Vortisch, head of the Institute for Transport at the KIT.
When they made the traffic model for Ingolstadt, the researchers considered only one parameter in isolation, without considering changes in user behavior or increased demand. Issues examined included how many self-driving cars would be needed to make the traffic flow smoother. It was found that it had to be at least 40 percent! This is because computers used in such cars maintain safe distance, do not drive too fast, and obey all traffic signals. Several academic studies, however say that in a mixed traffic situation this has a disadvantage for traffic flow. Journey times become significantly shorter only if more autonomous cars are used. If only autonomous cars are used on the roads in Ingolstadt, travel times would fall by 25 percent.
Godmann said that the results indicated that it is vital to take an overall view of urban mobility. The use of self-driving cars calls for effective use of mobility services and smart infrastructure to leverage their advantages. Thus, there needs to be a high level of cooperation between various stakeholders.
Ingolstadt, where Audi is based has about 140,000 residents, and is highly apt for use as a “laboratory” for traffic flow on the roads, as there is no subway or trams in the city and the traffic is dominated by vehicles with four wheels. The same is true for many medium-sized cities across the globe.
Audi’s “25th Hour” project
Commuters today generally spend about 50 minutes every day at the wheel. In the “25th Hour” project, from 2017 Audi has been investigating how autonomous vehicles can change our daily lives.
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