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Research Highlight

Transportation—Going with the flow

ORNL researchers created a simulation framework to study how coordinated connected and automated vehicles could improve traffic flow and reduce energy consumption during a merging on-ramp scenario while interacting with human drivers. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy 
Self-driving cars promise to keep traffic moving smoothly and reduce fuel usage, but proving those advantages has been a challenge with so few connected and automated vehicles, or CAVs, currently on the road. To study the potential benefits, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a simulation framework that analyzes the impact of partial market penetration of CAVs on fuel consumption, travel time and traffic flow in a merging on-ramp scenario under low, medium and heavy traffic volumes. “We observed that an increased number of CAVs communicating and coordinating driving activity stabilize traffic flow and, depending on the traffic volume, can reduce fuel use by more than 40 percent,” said ORNL’s Jacky Rios-Torres. “A steady traffic pattern, in turn, improves travel time.” Future research will explore the impact of CAVs in various traffic scenarios and determine whether CAVs can indirectly influence the driving performance of human-driven cars. The team’s results were published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Vehicles.