Driverless cars will fundamentally change mobility in more ways than we can imagine today. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have taken a hard look at how driverless cars could best negotiate intersections: The classic stoplight would be highly inefficient in a world comprised of only driverless cars. Therefore they have developed algorithms for managing the flow of cars at busy intersections. Cars would signal their arrival at an intersection to an intersection manager and request to pass the intersection. The intersection manager then looks for conflicts with other cars and allocates a time slot for for passing the intersection at a specified speed. This approach is over a 100 times more efficient than the classic stoplight and could greatly reduce congestion, driving times, and petrol consumption in city traffic. A simulation is shown below:
It will certainly take decades until only driverless cars will roam the streets. But intersection management could be implemented long before that time: Once a significant percentage of cars are autonomous, intersection managers could be added to stoplights and issue permissions to those autonomous cars that are at the front of the queue.
Overall this research by Peter Stone and his co-workers shows that driverless car technology holds much potential for improving traffic flow and reducing resource consumption.