Study: Self-driving cars could increase urban congestion

While there’s optimism that autonomous vehicles (AVs) could solve traffic problems by driving more efficiently and coordinating with other vehicles and infrastructure, the study also shows that the peculiarities of self-driving cars could create more problems. Not only did Millard-Ball determine it would be cheaper for the cars to not park, he found that moving at slower speeds was even more cost-effective, factoring in the costs of electricity, depreciation and maintenance. The cars, he said “will have every incentive to create havoc.”

Other analyses have found that AVs would generate more traffic simply by putting more cars on the road. An analysis by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group found that people replacing transit trips with autonomous vehicle rides would mean a 5.5% increase in travel times in downtown Boston (in outer neighborhoods, the analysis projected less congestion because people would rely on shared AVs rather than personal vehicles). The BBC reports that a 2017 British government study also found AVs would increase congestion in the short term.