Carnegie Mellon University

Can Autonomous Vehicles Help Reduce Congestion?

Soo-Haeng Cho, Tepper School Associate Professor of Operations Management, explains his research on self-driving vehicle technology.

Video Transcript

We often hear about autonomous vehicles in the media, but in fact, in Pittsburgh, we actually see Uber's autonomous vehicle cars almost every day. Pretty much all auto manufacturers, as well as ride-sharing companies, are experimenting with the autonomous vehicles. This technology will eventually come into our lives.

In this paper, we study how autonomous vehicles reduce congestion on highways. So the main benefit of this technology is to allow vehicles to move together in a bigger group, a so-called "platoon." And then they can also allow vehicles to maintain only a short distance between two consecutive vehicles.

Using the traffic data around the Phoenix area, in a highly congested time, so even 20% of autonomous vehicles can reduce travel time by over 30% or more. For example, if your typical commute time is one hour, this means that you can probably commute within 40 minutes.

So if all cars are autonomous vehicles, then the highway throughput can be improved over 400%. So that means that, without investing significant money in highway infrastructure, just bringing autonomous vehicle technology can essentially solve all traffic problems in highways today.

From an environmental perspective, you can reduce the emission of CO2, and from a safety perspective, there will be no human errors. Therefore, you can potentially reduce accidents. Eventually, these sort of cars will arrive. I can bet it's going to come here within 10, 20 years for sure.

More Tepper Research Videos