Driverless cars could significantly reduce delays according to a new report from government, described as an 'important first step' to understanding the new technology.
'The study demonstrates that driverless cars offer major potential benefits when the proportion of them on the road is higher than the proportion of older, more traditional vehicles,' the Department for Transport (DfT) said.
The report found:
- when measuring peak traffic periods with a maximum of up to 100% of driverless vehicles we saw journey times reduced by more than 11% and delays cut by more than 40%
- on urban roads benefits are seen in peak traffic periods even with low levels of automated vehicles on roads; benefits include a 12% improvement in delays and a 21% improvement in journey time reliability
However on major roads where traditional vehicles outnumbered automated vehicles the benefits were 'relatively small'.
The project used computer software to create virtual models of the UK road network.
Transport minister Johns Hayes said: 'This study reinforces our belief that these technologies offer major benefits and this government will support their research.'
Ministers also announced that the Modern Transport Bill - announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2016 - could include proposals to extend compulsory motor insurance to include the use of automated vehicles.
The Government intends to employ a single insurer model, where an insurer covers both the driver’s use of the vehicle and the technology.
This would ensure that the driver is covered both when they are driving, and when they have activated the Automated Driving Function (ADF).
In the event of a collision while the ADF was active, the innocent victim (both inside and/or outside the vehicle) would be able to claim from the insurer.
Insurers will have to pay out if a crash was caused by an autonomous vehicle where the ADF was active but not if the driver:
- made unauthorised modifications to their vehicle’s operating system,
- failed to install required updates to the software for the vehicle’s operating system