A new book from America which looks at the likely effect of driverless cars by analysing existing human behaviour is downplaying the potential benefits of the technology.
Tech Insider reports that writer Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths, co-authors of “Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions,” have worked out that the difference in congestion between total chaos and a perfectly-ordered driving system — the kind proposed in a future with autonomous vehicles — is only about 33%.
“If you’re hoping that networked, self-driving autonomous cars will bring us a future of traffic utopia,” they write, “it may be disheartening to learn that today’s selfish, uncoordinated drivers are already pretty close to optimal.”
The assertion by Christian and Griffiths comes from a 2002 academic paper written by computer scientist Tim Roughgarden who discovered that when routers shuffle packets of data across the Internet without an organized system — known formally as “selfish routing” — the price of anarchy is only a 33% reduction in speed versus top-down order.
Tech Insider says Christian and Griffiths argue the principle can be applied to any number of systems where huge batches of data are whizzing past one another, highway traffic included.
Self-driving cars can avoid accidents, which are a major cause of slowdown on some roads. And they can drive more tightly together, which can also increase the throughput of roads, Christian told the website. “But the broader point here is that traffic is primarily a function of congestion — that there are more cars on the road than the road is built to handle.”