Autonomous Vehicles May Add to Traffic Congestion


Uber's Self Driving car concept. / Photo by: Dllu via Wikimedia Commons


The improvement in the transportation of passengers and commodities in the city provided by autonomous vehicles comes with an exchange, an increase in road congestion, according to a recent report.

The World Economic Forum and The Boston Consulting Group published a report that the growth of AVs on roads can also swell up the rate of traffic. The report was a collaboration for three years that explored the effects of self-driving vehicles in reshaping urban mobility. The authors assessed the situation of more AVs on the road in Boston.

Within the study’s timeline, the researchers included several pointers including consumer acceptance, city perspective, the AV strategy Go Boston 2030, the testing pilot of AVs, and expansion of AV testing in the city. Here are some of the important findings revealed by the collaboration:

- About one-third of trips in Boston will represent the mobility-on-demand transportation concept. This occurs when customers decide to access goods, mobility, and services through a connected network. The volume of vehicles on the road may increase when people purchase items online and want them delivered in front of their homes.

- Shared autonomous vehicles will make traffic conditions worse if people substitute AVs for public transportation. SAVs are available for ride-sharing companies to enable passengers to hail a ride using their smartphones. While the service can reduce gas emissions and other energy costs, the expected increase in traffic congestion is about 5.5 percent in downtown Boston.

- Shared AVs will decrease the number of vehicles on the streets. This is the effect if the majority of passengers shift to AVs, which reduces the need for public transportation like buses. While there is a fewer number of vehicles on roads, the congestion will rise as people demand for more AV units.

- Certain neighborhoods including Allston-Brighton will have 12 percent reduction in traffic and 48 percent decrease in parking spaces.

The researchers recommend that the public should keep using both transport AVs and mass transit to prevent the increase in road congestion. Some steps can allow this to happen, such as lowering the costs for autonomous carpoolers, creating self-driving-only lanes, and converting specific parts of parking lots to pick-up and drop-off zones for AVs.