Adaptive Cruise Control May Solve Traffic Jams

from the who-needs-'em dept

More and more luxury cars these days are coming with adaptive cruise control -- which is mainly considered a safety feature. The idea is that if you're getting too close to the car in front of you, your car automatically begins to slow down, avoiding the possibility of an accident. However, one of the nice "unintended benefits" of such systems is they may create much more efficient traffic flow. Apparently, if just 20% of the cars on the road had such systems on a normal highway, most traffic jams would simply go away. The article goes into details on how this works, but the basic summary is that most drivers are either idiots or err on the side of caution by braking too hard when someone in front of them brakes, leading to a chain reaction that causes the slow down. With a computer braking more appropriately, the chain reaction has a much smaller impact, allowing traffic flow to continue smoothly. Yet another situation where a technology designed for one purpose, actually has a very useful alternative benefit.
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  1. identicon
    Captain Obvious, 7 Feb 2009 @ 4:40am

    4 Fails before this comment.

    The 4 commenters before me all fail because they didn't even read the article in order to understand how this system will actually help solve traffic jams.

    - Idiots crawling at constant 45mph in the inner lane don't cause traffic jams: It's the idiot drivers that suddenly break behind them, causing a ripple in the traffic flow that will eventually force cars to stop way behind the 45mph idiot.
    - You may look at the wreck in the lanes going the opposite direction. That won't stop the technology from doing its part in absorbing the traffic ripples. In that particular case, if you have it, it will just stop you from hitting the guy in front of you.
    - Also, we don't need everyone to have this kind of technology in their cars. If you really want to drive without any technology at all, you can just be a part of those remaining 80%, and the traffic jams will still be solved by the technology, as stated in these studies. In fact, that is the point of this article.
    - Traffic Jams are caused because people break too much, too late. NOT too early. Seriously, who the hell breaks too suddenly, but too early, in a traffic jam?! This technology basically makes the car slow down at a very slow pace, instead of a sudden break. It will use the space between the cars as a buffer to absorb the traffic ripples caused by any idiot that breaks too much. The point is that if 20% of the cars in such a situation have this technology, these ripples won't spread. Resulting in a traffic flow at an average speed of the "crawling idiots at 45mph", which IMHO is much better than having to stop the car every few seconds. Basically, this system will be engaging most of the time.


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