The researchers from the University of Cambridge are observing how the traffic flow changed when cars are working together. For this the researchers have programmed a small fleet of miniature robotic cars to drive on a multi-lane track.
When the cars were not driving cooperatively, any cars behind the stopped car had to stop or slow down and wait for a gap in the traffic, as would typically happen on a real road. A queue quickly formed behind the stopped car and overall traffic flow was slowed.
However, when the cars were communicating with each other and driving cooperatively, as soon as one car stopped in the inner lane, it sent a signal to all the other cars. Cars in the outer lane that were in immediate proximity of the stopped car slowed down slightly so that cars in the inner lane were able to quickly pass the stopped car without having to stop or slow down significantly.
Additionally, when a human-controlled driver was put on the ‘road’ with the autonomous cars and moved around the track in an aggressive manner, the other cars were able to give way to avoid the aggressive driver, improving safety.
Starting with inexpensive scale models of commercially-available vehicles with realistic steering systems, the Cambridge researchers adapted the cars with motion capture sensors and a Raspberry Pi, so that the cars could communicate via wifi.
They then adapted a lane-changing algorithm for autonomous cars to work with a fleet of cars. The original algorithm decides when a car should change lanes, based on whether it is safe to do so and whether changing lanes would help the car move through traffic more quickly.
The adapted algorithm allows for cars to be packed more closely when changing lanes and adds a safety constraint to prevent crashes when speeds are low. A second algorithm allowed the cars to detect a projected car in front of it and make space.
They then tested the fleet in ‘egocentric’ and ‘cooperative’ driving modes, using both normal and aggressive driving behaviours, and observed how the fleet reacted to a stopped car.
The researchers observed that in the normal mode, cooperative driving improved traffic flow by 35% over egocentric driving, while for aggressive driving, the improvement was 45%.
In future work, the researchers plan to use the fleet to test multi-car systems in more complex scenarios including roads with more lanes, intersections and a wider range of vehicle types.
Source: Press Release