Self-driving cars could nearly double road congestion, says Government report

Driverless cars could add to more congestion on UK roads, a new Government report has warned.

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) Traffic Projections for England and Wales report says delays could rise up to 85% from 2025 and 2060 in driverless cars are using the network.

The analysis is based on connected and autonomous vehicles making up half of the car fleet by 2047, and a “fast uptake” of electric vehicles.

This would lead to more traffic by “increasing the mobility of the elderly and those who do not currently hold a driving licence”, according to the report.

But the document, published last month, claims “the ability to work or relax while travelling in a self-driving car” means occupants will be “more amenable to sitting in traffic”.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding told the PA news agency: “There are currently 5.9 million licence holders aged 70 or over in Britain, so we know the demand for mobility is there among those of a senior age.

“In the foreseeable future, automated vehicles offer the tantalising prospect of independence for the many millions more people who fall into the older age group but for whatever reason – cost, medical impairment – don’t currently drive.”

Mr Gooding predicted that the way in which autonomous technology is deployed will be significant.

He said: “If everyone insists on having their own driverless car then traffic volume and parking pressures will rise.

“However, if we are prepared to access these vehicles on-demand and forego personal ownership then we could have a win-win situation: quieter roads, fewer cars shared by the many, and cheaper transport.”

Recent analysis by traffic information supplier Inrix, as reported by Highways News, found that UK drivers lost an average of 80 hours last year due to congestion, a seven-hour increase from 2021.

For the second year in a row, London was found to be the world’s most congested city in 2022, with drivers in the capital spending an average of 156 hours sitting in traffic.

Fully driverless cars are not legally permitted in the UK but autonomous features are being developed by car makers.

Oxford-based technology company Oxbotica completed its first fully autonomous, driverless vehicle test on public roads in May 2022.

Kaity Fischer, Vice President of Commercial at Wayve told the Telegraph: “Self-driving vehicles will be an integral part of a safer, more efficient and more sustainable transport system.

“The Government’s modelling was based on the private ownership of self-driving cars, but here at Wayve we are optimising our technology on electric vehicles for fleet customers in sectors like last-mile delivery and shared mobility services.

“Self-0driving vehicles, where used in electric fleets, will ultimately lead to faster journey times and reduce the number of vehicles on the road, cutting congestion and emissions.”

In August last year the DfT said it expected self-driving vehicles to be available for use by 2025.


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