By Eugene Vinitsky
We are in the midst of an unprecedented convergence of two rapidly growing trends on our roadways: sharply increasing congestion and the deployment of autonomous vehicles. Year after year, highways get slower and slower: famously, China’s roadways were paralyzed by a two-week long traffic jam in 2010. At the same time as congestion worsens, hundreds of thousands of semi-autonomous vehicles (AVs), which are vehicles with automated distance and lane-keeping capabilities, are being deployed on highways worldwide. The second trend offers a perfect opportunity to alleviate the first. The current generation of AVs, while very far from full autonomy, already hold a multitude of advantages over human drivers that make them perfectly poised to tackle this congestion. Humans are imperfect drivers: accelerating when we shouldn’t, braking aggressively, and make short-sighted decisions, all of which creates and amplifies patterns of congestion.