Re: Missing the obvious
“In the most obvious use case of congested motorways or urban roads, AVs won't deliver much over what could be done with existing technology such as ramp metering, variable speed limits, phased traffic lights linked to volumetric sensors. And even then, the marginal benefits of traffic management are quickly exhausted.”
Looking purely at Europe.
The EU has committed to moving to electric vehicles by 2040, so there is going to be a significant change in how people view car ownership versus today. Ie. In cities, trends in the decline in car ownership and longer lease periods will continue while trends in people using car services for individual journeys or short term hires will continue. This means the majority of vehicles in urban areas will be replaced within 20 years and not necessarily with ownership of the new vehicles. There is also the impact on vehicle resales.
With more new electric vehicles coming onto the road, particularly as services rather than larger purchases, features such as GPS, collision sensors, collision avoidance and phone home will become common.
What can be done to reduce congestion? Target throughput/good put rather than speed. Provide sufficient intelligence in the vehicles to sync speed with traffic light phases, reduce minor collisions by the use of collision avoidance, restrict speeds and reduce the blocking of intersections to drive first wave. As this is used and improved, incorporate route planning to get to the point where journey times are more predictable. This will also help bus services as well as potentially helping people to choose other forms of public transport or commuting options other than cars. From here, I would expect centralised traffic management systems to begin to allocate you lanes/positions and monitor your journeys to ensure you comply with rules if you are self-drive. Semi-AV vehicles would operate based on sensors and control information from the centralised control points. There will be interchanges between “controlled” traffic and self-drive. Add in Uber-type services to improve utilisation of space by reducing the number of vehicles sitting in parking during business hours. For goods delivery, the route and parking can be pre-planned to reduce disruption while unloading vehicles or control what types of vehicles an go where at what times.
This type of model works for lower speed traffic and will likely reduce traffic speeds, which may help public transport initiatives. I believe the variance in motorway traffic makes it a hard point to start making these changes - until you have close to 100% AV vehicles in-place, high speeds mean mistakes can have significant impact, while the same changes in London where average speeds during peak hours in London is around 5-10mph making collision avoidance systems significantly more effective. For pedestrians, I would expect more controlled crossings and road furniture to discourage them from mixing with vehicles.
If this makes cars more expensive but gives you the option to be a passenger in a safer vehicle, the majority of people will become passengers and use their commute for other activities than driving. Move from car ownership to journey hire and you also reduce the number of mechanically unreliable cars from the road as you push maintenance to companies that can be regulated more easily than individuals.
Compare this model with what is available in Tesla (and others) today and what is being trialled by the Japanese manufacturers around central control systems.