Study proposes road design with autonomous vehicle lanes

Researchers seek ways to accommodate freeway future with the present

Study proposes road design with autonomous vehicle lanes
A dedicated lane for autonomous vehicles is advised

A University of NSW (UNSW) study proposes a freeway network design with exclusive lanes for autonomous vehicles.

The issues of autonomous vehicles and truck platooning have been exercising government and industry minds for several years now, with the safety relationship between vehicles with drivers and those without front of mind.

Aimed more at urban functions for cars but with obvious implications for trucks, UNSW engineers used computer modelling of mixed scenarios, they found dedicated lanes significantly improved the overall safety and traffic flow in a hybrid network of pedestrians, cyclists, automated vehicles and legacy vehicles.

Lead author Dr Shantanu Chakraborty from UNSW School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, insisted that if the road and transport network is not prepared for these vehicles when they enter the market, it will significantly hinder the travel experience of all road users.

"Traffic congestion costs the economy billions of dollars every year in all the extra time spent commuting," Chakraborty said.

"The proposed model will help minimise interaction with legacy vehicles and reduce overall congestion on the road.

"The mix of autonomous vehicles and legacy vehicles will cause issues on the road network unless there is proper modelling during this transition phase. If we get caught out and we’re not ready, we won’t reap the full benefits of the technology behind these autonomous vehicles."

Read about the Army’s autonomous trucks direction, here

Adding an exclusive lane for autonomous vehicles means removing a lane from legacy drivers – so this may cause a little disruption, he added.

"If you look at our existing network, we already have something similar with dedicated bus lanes – so we’re not reinventing the wheel here. 

"Freeways are also the best network of car lanes to trial as they have dedicated entry and exit points where drivers can automatically switch on and off their automated features."

Variable signboards could be used to change the lane designation based on the traffic condition at the time.

This would mean, during peak hours, roads could be used more efficiently depending on the traffic conditions at the time.

"Our modelling accounts for changing traffic conditions," Chakraborty said.

"For example, during non-peak hour times when we don’t need a lane for autonomous vehicles, we can have all lanes open for legacy vehicles," he said.

"Due to the minimal infrastructure, our proposed model also has the potential to design ramp metering for freeway networks to help regulate the flow of traffic during peak hour."

The UNSW study can be found here.


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