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Self-driving cars could nearly double road congestion, says Government report

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Motorists could possibly be stuck in congestion nearly twice as bad as current levels if self-driving cars turn into commonplace, a Government report warns.

Department for Transport (DfT) traffic projections for England and Wales show delays may rise by as much as 85% from 2025 to 2060 in that scenario.

The evaluation is predicated on connected and autonomous vehicles making up half of the automotive fleet by 2047, and a “fast uptake” of electrical vehicles.

This might result in more traffic by “increasing the mobility of the elderly and those that don’t currently hold a driving licence”, in keeping with the report.

However the document, published last month, claims “the power to work or loosen up while travelling in a self-driving automotive” means occupants will probably be “more amenable to sitting in traffic”.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding told the PA news agency: “There are currently 5.9 million licence holders aged 70 or over in Britain, so we all know the demand for mobility is there amongst those of a senior age.

“Within the foreseeable future, automated vehicles offer the tantalising prospect of independence for the various tens of millions more individuals who fall into the older age group but for whatever reason – cost, medical impairment – don’t currently drive.”

Mr Gooding predicted that the best way through which autonomous technology is deployed will probably be significant.

He said: “If everyone insists on having their very own driverless automotive then traffic volume and parking pressures will rise.

“Nevertheless, if we’re prepared to access these vehicles on-demand and forego personal ownership then we could have a win-win situation: quieter roads, fewer cars shared by the various, and cheaper transport.”

Recent evaluation by traffic information supplier Inrix found that UK drivers lost a mean of 80 hours last 12 months as a consequence of congestion, a seven-hour increase from 2021.

London was found to be the world’s most congested city in 2022, with drivers within the capital spending a mean of 156 hours sitting in traffic.

Author and broadcaster Christian Wolmar, the creator of Driverless Cars: On a Road To Nowhere, insisted that the Government should “not be attempting to accommodate” the degrees of traffic which it’s feared self-driving cars will generate.

He said: “We should always be doing all the things in our power to be sure that doesn’t occur.

“The concept that you’ve gotten a technological fix to congestion is nonsensical.”

Mr Wolmar described the suggestion there will probably be a “critical mass” of self-driving cars by 2047 as “fanciful”.

He added: “I feel there may be zero likelihood of there being driverless cars that operate in mixed areas with other traffic in any great amount or in any difficult situation.

“There was little or no real progress when it comes to creating cars that might go anywhere in any conditions.

“It doesn’t look feasible.”

Fully driverless cars are usually not legally permitted within the UK but autonomous features are being developed by automotive makers.

Oxford-based technology company Oxbotica accomplished its first fully autonomous, driverless vehicle test on public roads in May 2022.

In August last 12 months the DfT said it expected self-driving vehicles to be available to be used by 2025.

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