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This article was published on September 1, 2016

Watch: How autonomous cars could completely eliminate traffic jams

Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

Humans, as it turns out, are pretty crappy drivers. Of course, we knew this already.

What you might not have known is, we’re also directly responsible for most of the traffic problems we face on roadways. While we blame congestion, traffic lights and other cars for our traffic woes, as this video shows: it’s mostly us.

Unlike machines, humans are reactionary drivers.

When a red light turns green, we react to the car in front of us moving, not the light itself. If each of us — even several cars back at a stoplight — reacted at the same time, we’d ease congestion on the roadway by avoiding inefficient movement.

The same is true of tailgaters and lane switchers on the highway. If we were able to maintain a constant speed, and stay in the same lane, the traffic jams we face daily would be less of an issue.

Problem is, we don’t have the same reactions or attention span of a piece of artificial intelligence. We can’t make calculations about stopping and starting, maintaining speed, or switching lanes in efficient enough ways to ease the flow of traffic. Machines, however, can.

In fact, with a completely autonomous-driving roadway, we could all but eliminate backups and traffic jams. In fact, we might even be able to do with stoplights and road signs that provide further slowdowns.

After an insightful breakdown of how traffic actually happens — which is probably much different than how you imagine it — the video turns its attention to autonomous cars right about here.

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