The once outlandish idea of driverless cars is now becoming a reality. With this momentous development in the world of transport, the need for road markings has never been more important.
Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes every year around the world. Hopefully, driverless cars will help to substantially reduce this high figure of fatalities. Aside from making transportation more affordable and convenient, driverless cars also possess the potential to save lives.
George Lee, Director of RSMA, has stated that: “By 2025, at least half the travel on Europe’s roads will be in vehicles that can read the road ahead, including markings and signs.” With that in mind Tesla, Volvo, Audi and Mercedes, just to name a few, are currently producing vehicles that can drive on highways, change lanes and park without human assistance. However, these vehicles do struggle when lane markers are faded or damaged.
How do they work? Firstly, driverless cars use adaptive cruise control to maintain a healthy distance from the car in front, rather than a constant speed. There are also lane-keeping systems that follow road markings; if the car drifts there will be a warning and it will correct the steering. We have already seen a few cars that park themselves such as the Lexus LS460, Ford Focus, and Toyota Prius, and the driverless cars will adopt the same feature. It will also have multiple sensors, along with map features surrounding it and finally, will use lidar (light waves) to identify pedestrians and traffic lights.
With the Google Car crashing on Valentine’s day 2016, after driving 1.3 million miles since 2009, it is clear this technology is still in the development stage. Nonetheless, this future technology is supposedly going to cut delays, making life easier for motorists everywhere, especially those who are going to and from work each day.
The Department for Transport conducted a project using computer software to create virtual models of different parts of the UK road network, using urban roads and a section of motorway spanning over 20km. As a result of this, delays and traffic flow improved and the study showed that driverless cars can offer huge benefits.
Transport Minister John Hayes said: “This exciting and extensive study shows that driverless cars could vastly improve traffic flow in our towns and cities, offering huge benefits to motorists including reduced delays and more reliable journey times.” He also stated that “driverless cars are just one example of cutting edge technology which could transform the way in which we travel.”
The main findings of this project were that:
- Urban roads: During peak traffic periods and low levels of vehicles, benefits include a 12% improvement in delays and a 21% improvement on journey time
- Major roads: During peak traffic periods and low levels of vehicles, benefits include a 40% cut in delay time and 11% reduction in journey time
Information taken from The Department of Transport as well as Technology Review, The Guardian and Techworld