Self-organized autonomous vehicles can increase traffic flow - research

The study found that by-products may be increased traffic safety and fewer lane transitions.

A video illustation of AVs and traffic flow.
Just a small number of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on highways and roads can dramatically increase traffic flow, making it faster, greener and even safer in the near future, a study from Bar-Ilan University released on Wednesday claims.
The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical, found that traffic flows would increase in the event of a situation of "hybrid traffic," whereby a small amount of AVs combined with normal human-operated vehicles, influences the consistency and flow of the traffic.
Nevertheless, it remains unclear the ratio of AVs to human-operated vehicles needed produced significant changes in traffic flow.
The two researchers from Bar-Ilan, Dr. Amir Goldental and Prof. Ido Kanter, of the Department of Physics presented guidelines and regulations aimed at achieving the self-organization of AVs into 'constellations,' organized formations of cars, to control the overall flow of traffic.
Some of the guidelines include more efficient regulations, such as AVs cooperating with one another, which may increase traffic flow even at a rate of 5% of vehicles being autonomous. In their published article, which can be seen in a short video, reveals that AVs can self-organize and split traffic flows into more manageable clusters leading to a consistent stream of traffic, as opposed to frequent stops and starts that prompts more congestion due to human response time.
The researchers also observed that it can take in theory two minutes or less for AVs to organize into constellations.
"Without regulations on AVs, we face a classic example of game theory paradox, such as the prisoner's dilemma, where each vehicle tries to optimize its driving speed but the overall traffic flow is not optimal. In our research we examine how, with proper regulations, a very small number of AVs can improve the overall traffic flow significantly, through cooperation," says Dr. Goldental.
Both researchers estimate an increase up to 40% in traffic flow and a decrease of 28%  in fuel consumption. Similarly, the study found that by-products may be increased traffic safety and fewer lane transitions.
The formation of constellations, accordingly, can also be done without a central agent informing the AVs to perform certain actions, and without communication between AVs.