Monday, May 13, 2019

Here's Why Autonomous Cars Are the Only Way to Eliminate Traffic Jams

Here's Why Autonomous Cars Are the Only Way to Eliminate Traffic Jams

There's a driving technique that's guaranteed to eliminate traffic jams forever. Too bad human drivers can't pull it off.


If you know anything about how traffic patterns work and congestion actually occurs, you'll already know a frustrating and basic truth about driving: It only takes one jerk's tap of the brakes to spark a traffic jam that can reach for miles and last for hours.

This issue is only exacerbated by drivers who don't understand what makes a traffic jam worse and what makes it go away. But as CGP Grey explains, there's actually a strategy that—if every driver knew it and adhered to it—could make many traffic jams just disappear. Just maintain an equal distance from the car in front of you and the car behind you. That's it.

Simple in theory, but next to impossible in practice. For one, not all human drivers are aware of this principle, and we'll never reach a point where they all are. On top of that, human drivers lack the precision and consistency to maintain equal gaps like this all the time. Last but not least, it breaks down unless everyone is doing it; you don't control the car behind you and if it's getting right up on your bumper, there's not much you can do.

The solution, of course, is self-driving cars. Self-driving cars and only self-driving cars. The more robotic cars on the road, the more they can communicate, follow these rules, and make commuting more efficient than it ever could be with even one human driver in the mix. Maybe we'll get there someday. In the meantime, enjoy the freedom of driving yourself—if you're not caught in a human-caused traffic jam.

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