NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Results from a Vanderbilt University-led study conducted on I-24 show a new kind of car technology, called adaptive cruise control that could help ease traffic jams that seem to come out of nowhere, called phantom traffic.
“The extremely frustrating traffic jams that motorists are very familiar with, you’re stopped without a good reason. You’re stopped because of the way you and I drive,” Dan Work, a Vanderbilt University civil and environmental engineering professor said.
The world’s largest open-track traffic experiment was conducted Nov. 14 through Nov. 18 on a 4-mile stretch of I-24 between 5am and 10:30am daily. During the five-day period, 100 engineers drove on I-24, testing out Nissan Rogues with adaptive cruise control. In addition, researchers monitored 300 ultra-HD cameras put in place to examine other drivers’ behaviors.
In just one day, researchers recorded 143,010 miles driven and 3,780 hours of driving, which will provide the amount of estimated fuel consumption during those hours.
“The concept we are hoping to demonstrate is that by leveraging this new traffic system to collect data and estimate traffic and applying artificial intelligence technology to existing cruise control systems, we can ease traffic jams and improve fuel economy,” the CIRCLES team said in a joint statement. The team includes members from Vanderbilt University, UC Berkeley, Temple University and Rutgers University-Camden, in coordination with Nissan North America and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
At the end of the study, researchers concluded the technology could save drivers time and fuel by reducing the severity and frequency of phantom traffic.
The study has been years in the making and involved groups from all over the world.
“This past week was a big leap forward to do it with 100 vehicles from Nissan driving on I-24 that is filled with all kinds of challenges that many motorists on that corridor are very familiar with, to see if those technologies that have been developed in the lab actually carry over to the real world,” Work said.
Vanderbilt University previously tested adaptive cruise control technology in collaboration with other institutions using 20 cars on a closed track. The study showed just one car with adaptive cruise control capabilities influenced the driving behavior of 20 people.
Researchers wanted to discover whether the same results would hold up in the real world.
“There’s researchers around the world working on ways that these automated vehicles might at some point get to a capability where you can drive without a person in the car. Our research is looking at the complete opposite angle,” Work said. “We want to understand how the technology that may be available in the next few months can help start making traffic a little bit better.”
Engineers are still determining exactly how impactful the technology was in easing phantom traffic. They plan to examine the results in more detail over the next few weeks.
One of their next steps is to work with car companies to find ways to make the technology available to the public soon, potentially, within the next few months.
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“The next car you could buy without you doing much might be able to make traffic better for everyone else,” Work said. “We think it’s a great story, we think it’s something folks can get behind, and we’re just trying to push it as hard as we can to make sure you don’t have to wait a decade for those results to be in a vehicle that you can buy.”
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Transportation and Energy. The cars tested were provided by Nissan, Toyota North American and General Motors.