The subject of autonomous cars still raises a lot of questions for many of us and unfortunately, cementing concerns further is new research which has emerged stating that they could cause severe traffic problems, according to a new study.

Research by Adam Millard-Ball, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California, found that self-driving cars in the future might avoid paying to park by using free on-street spaces instead or even returning home before being summoned to go and collect passengers.

The report published by Transport Policy also says that these vehicles could double travel time within urban areas.

Millard-Ball looked at a traffic simulation model and the streets of San Francisco to come up with the results, which also added that keeping cars on the move worked out cheaper than paying to park, even when factoring in wear and tear.

He told The University of California’s magazine: “Parking prices are what get people out of their cars and onto public transit, but autonomous vehicles have no need to park at all.

“They can get around paying for parking by cruising. They will have every incentive to create havoc.”

The study found that even with just 2,000 of these vehicles on the streets of the Californian city, it could slow traffic speeds down by 2mph.

The most likely initial use for autonomous cars is that they will drop off their passengers and then once they are ready to be collected again, the occupants will be able to call for their vehicle. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft (the latter doesn’t currently operate in the UK) are likely to be the first major users of self-driving vehicles.

The white paper also suggests that cities might have to implement congestion charges to try and limit the effects of self-driving cars not parking at their destination.

Ted Welford


February 5, 2019

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