General Motors envisioned at the 1937 World Fair that cars would one day drive themselves and travel would be as simple as telling your car where you want to go. Some seventy years later, Google, an internet company, has made a car do almost that. It is expected that fully autonomous vehicles will roam the streets of our cities in less than 20 years, and this will have profound impacts on transportation, urban form and our daily lives. In this talk, I explore one aspect of this influence: how autonomous vehicles can affect traffic flow and congestion. I’ll start from traffic flow made of human driven vehicles, linking driver behavior (rules) to flow capacities and congestion mechanisms on highways, and then discuss how autonomous vehicles can be made to greatly increase the throughputs of highways.
Michael Zhang is currently Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Davis. He is also affiliated with the Applied Mathematics Graduate Group, and the Transportation Policy and Technology Graduate Program, both at UC Davis. Professor Zhang’s research focuses on traffic flow theory, network optimization, and transportation systems operations. He serves as an Associate Editor for Transportation Research Part B, Methodological, Transportmetrica Part A, and Transportation Science, and Area Editor (traffic flow) for Networks and Spatial Economics. He is a recipient of the US National Science Foundation’s CAREER award, and the Richard Cunard Best Paper Award of The Transportation Research Board.