A small number of self-organizing autonomous vehicles significantly increases traffic flow

I suspect that the cost of having the bird and crew sit idle would eat up more than the revenue from intentionally slowing boarding and then offering paid premiums. Which doesn’t mean that some genius at the airline wouldn’t do it anyway.

I came here to say this wouldn’t work in the real world, but got beat to it. People are terrible drivers on the whole, so unless every vehicle (or a large majority at the least) is autonomous, it’s not gonna work.

I have the solution to your milk production. First assume a spherical cow in a frictionless vacuum…


No no no and no! At least not the way they are illustrating it.

I think this is a great idea but they are doing it wrong IMO. Rather than assist the flow of traffic, these AI’s are just taking over the road using brute force by matching the speed of all three lanes. It’s a moving roadblock. As anyone knows that’s been stuck in the real world driving situation that the outcome of this video shows, it is infuriating! It also ignores the rule of the road that says slower traffic keep right.

A solid block of traffic like this doesn’t allow for the smooth movement of vehicles in and out to exit and merge. Some people are more comfortable driving faster, and others, slower. Every vehicle operates most efficiently at different speeds.

When I read the description, I imagined each lane to the left moving about 3-5 mph faster than the lane to it’s right. People will choose the lane for the speed that they’re most comfortable with.

There is a three lane highway in our city that often naturally achieves this balance during the later evening hours. It’s a dream to drive - traffic moves smoothly, swiftly, and efficiently.

So this is an awesome idea, but do it in a manner that respects proper lane discipline.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter - eventually the AI’s will lead us all and we will happily follow…


I recall hearing similar arguments made when traffic lights were first introduced. “Who will stop for them!?”

We can, as a society, work together to create a more optional outcome. Be it for traffic flow, the environment, health care or renewable energy. We just need proper leadership, laws and enforcement. Something, unfortunately, we in the US have had little of recently.

The robots are braking the law, at least here in the uk as they are using the fast lane, not for over taking, it would take all of 5 mins, before some one made their own lane and rammed one off the road, so this is saying that AV drivers will be targets for road rage and 80 90 mile an hour!

Frogger anyone?

I’m glad to see so many others agree this is a horrible idea and untenable solution.

The desired outcome is “groups that split the traffic flow into controllable clusters” - in other words, their design intends to use autonomous vehicles to usurp control of non-autonomous traffic.

It’s already a big ask to trust the technology to be advanced enough to just not kill someone - but they think drivers are going to trust that and trust that the technology is altruistic? That people will believe the cars will act in good faith - that their decisions are made for the betterment of all? That people will gladly fall in line with how the good robot drives, for their own good? Ridiculous.

And with so many examples of bias in machine learning, I can only imagine how these autonomous cars will be programmed to drive “defensively” when they encounter people doing shit they’re “not supposed to do”

  • “Hello, highway patrol dispatch, how can I help you?”
  • “This is a Kia Automated REport Notification - unsafe driving conditions - northbound, mile marker 87, vehicle plate XOI761 moving in excess of posted speed limit - requesting law enforcement” … [slows down and blocks traffic with 3 other cars until “safe” conditions are restored]
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I’ll drive faster, even if it makes us all slower!
It’s fascinating to watch people drive in a way that makes it harder for everyone sharing a road, in the vain attempt to get a competitive advantage. That is the part of this equation that is completely lost on many drivers. There’s a human reaction time thing that makes traffic jams not clear themselves. This is what these researchers are addressing.

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Yes, this simulates the terrible left lane blocking behavior using cruise control that we all know about. The programmers need to take this to the next level by adding lane discipline logic like “move right one lane if there is a space and that lane is moving close to my speed” and “move right if I can if someone is behind me”. Maybe this simulation could eventually optimize itself to skilled Autobahn behavior.

I like the conversions we are seeing from 4 lane roads (2 lanes in each direction with only a yellow line in the middle) to 3 lane roads (one lane each way, a turn-only lane in the center, and two bike lanes). Traffic is calmer if capacity isn’t needed and speed competition is eliminated. The re-striped roads are immensely safer.

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This won’t work in real life, but it’s because autonomous vehicles won’t work, the technique itself is used regularly already. I’ve witnessed cops do this several times. It’s more common in higher traffic areas (coughseattlecough). They tend to come on to the freeway as a group and turn on their lights before spreading across the lanes. Frequently each moving to block extra lanes. After the pre-jam traffic dissipates, the traffic flow will go back to your ideal with the left lane moving faster.

OT: This is an excellent example of a job performed by an armed officer that could be performed, possibly better, by an unarmed specialist.


Self-driving AI is already a reality, but not yet ready for roll-out obviously because, uh, it kills too many people. (Even though, it can probably be demonstrated— even now — that full-scale AI would kill dramatically fewer people than the 40,000 people who die every year in US auto accidents.)

But I still don’t understand how cars will ever negotiate the “edge conditions” that humans themselves have problems with. Eg, roadside plastic bags/paper trash/dirty snow, that momentarily appear to resemble rocks or immobile obstacles; mannequins; “Will E Coyote” pictures of roads; nefarious graffiti made to resemble road markings (centerlines that direct traffic off a cliff, 3-D “bumps” that are flat/2-D), etc.

The unknown/unaccounted-for: is an AI car equipped to handle a steel cable strung across the road? A “tree branch” that is actually an impaling steel reinforcement rebar? What does it do when an earthquake/landslide literally shifts the road from under it? How does it deal with a volcano’s pyroclastic flow, that might look like oncoming fog but is actually lethal?

All of which require either life-endangering maneuvers to save life, or plowing straight ahead and through the imaginary “obstacle”.

(I guess some of these can be solved by using penetrating radar: a rubber ball or plastic bag or nefarious picture of a bump will be safely ignored.)

But all this doesn’t even touch the trolley problem: should it swerve off-road, endangering the car occupants, or plow through a dense crowd of 20 people? What if a loaded 25-ton tractor trailer is at-speed behind it, ready to rear-end (and destroy) any car that slams on its brakes?

I predict an intermediate stage were lanes of interstates will be devoted to self-driving vehicles (which then can form up into ‘road trains’ that follow each other heel-and-toe, for better fuel economy). They can drop their trailers at the tandem staging areas that already exist, for human drivers to haul them the ‘last mile’.

That move would unemploy half the truckers in America. With proportional cost savings for Amazon and the like. Which is why it’ll get pushed through.

I do not live in Houston, nor drive a truck, and I would be pissed if I came up on three cars abreast going exactly 65mph.

There’s one AI that could make everyone chill out. I’m referring of course to AI Green.

(c/o @ChuckV)

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Which is, at least in theory, a really good idea, because people suck at driving, and, as @nixiebunny pointed out, give ashore about anyone else’s, which leads to everyone being way slower than streets and traffic would allow.

As of now. However, as it‘s obvious that robot control of traffic would decrease travel time and emissions, and increase safety, that law could simply be changed, e.g. so that it only applies when no robots are around.

I‘d rather have more public transport than this crap, but it sure beats people driving on their own.

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