Evidence on impacts of automated vehicles on traffic flow efficiency and emissions: Systematic review

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Despite high expectations of driving automation improving road traffic, its practical implications on traffic flow and emissions are not yet definite. This study systematically reviewed literature on practical impacts of non-connected automation of passenger cars on motorway traffic efficiency. A conceptual framework showed the importance of understanding interactions between vehicles, both human-driven and automated, but they are not yet sufficiently known and reproduced by traffic models. Field studies have focused on equipped vehicles. Simulation studies have used different models and assumptions, narrow fleet compositions and road layouts, and covered the theoretical potential in ideal conditions rather than likely impacts in practice. Simulations with automated vehicle time gaps below 1.2 s have found throughput increases, but recent field experiments and simulations using commercial ACC vehicles indicate decreased traffic flow efficiency with increasing traffic volumes and penetration rates. Concluding implications for real traffic from available data is challenging. While benefits are possible for equipped vehicles in low traffic, results suggest negative implications for throughput and emissions at higher traffic volumes. Importantly, more differentiated discussion on the impacts of automated vehicles on traffic flow is needed, considering also the practical implications, such as tradeoffs with safety goals, if benefits are to be achieved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1306-1327
Number of pages22
JournalIET Intelligent Transport Systems
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


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