Motorists could find themselves stuck in congestion almost twice as severe as current levels if self-driving cars become common, a government report warns.
The Department for Transport (DfT) traffic projections for England and Wales show that delays can increase by up to 85% between 2025 and 2060 in that scenario.
The analysis is based on connected and autonomous vehicles that will make up half of the car fleet by 2047, and a “rapid uptake” of electric vehicles.
This would lead to more traffic by “increasing the mobility of the elderly and those who currently do not have a driving license,” according to the report.
Motorists could be stuck in congestion nearly twice current levels if self-driving cars become common, a government report warns.
Traffic projections from the Department for Transport (DfT) for England and Wales show that delays can increase by up to 85% between 2025 and 2060, if driverless cars become commonplace
But the document, released last month, claims that “the ability to work or relax while traveling in an autonomous car” means that occupants will be “more willing to sit in traffic.”
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding told the PA news agency: ‘There are currently 5.9 million license holders aged 70 and over in Britain, so we know the demand for mobility exists among the old people.
“For the foreseeable future, automated vehicles offer the tantalizing prospect of independence for the many millions more people who are in the older age group but for whatever reason (cost, medical disability) currently do not drive.”
Gooding predicted that the way autonomous technology will be implemented will be significant.
He said: ‘If everyone insists on having their own driverless car, traffic volumes and parking pressures will increase.
“However, if we are prepared to access these vehicles on demand and forego personal property, then we could have a win-win situation: smoother roads, fewer cars shared by many, and cheaper transportation.”
A recent analysis by traffic information provider Inrix found that UK drivers lost an average of 80 hours last year due to congestion, an increase of seven hours from 2021.
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.
Autonomous vehicles could account for half of the car fleet by 2047, with ‘rapid uptake’ of electric vehicles
Writer and broadcaster Christian Wolmar, author of Driverless Cars: On a Road To Nowhere, insisted that the government “should not try to accommodate” the levels of traffic that driverless cars are feared to generate.
He said: ‘We should be doing everything in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“The idea that you have a technological solution to congestion doesn’t make sense.”
Wolmar described the suggestion that there will be a “critical mass” of self-driving cars by 2047 as “fanciful.”
He added: “I think there is absolutely no chance of driverless cars operating in mixed areas with other traffic in large numbers or in any difficult situation.”
“There has been very little real progress in terms of creating cars that can go anywhere in any condition.
It doesn’t seem feasible.
Driverless cars are not legally allowed in the UK, but automakers are developing autonomous features.
Oxford-based technology company Oxbotica completed its first test of fully autonomous driverless vehicles on public roads in May 2022.
In August last year, the DfT said it expected autonomous vehicles to be available for use by 2025.