US looking to end traffic jams with robot cars and big data by 2045

4 Feb 2015

Traffic jam image via Michael Loke/Flickr

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has laid out ambitious plans to end all traffic jams by 2045 with the help of big data, self-driving cars and real-time navigation.

The 300-page report called Beyond Traffic details the DOT’s attempts to crowdsource ideas and information that could significantly reduce, or altogether stop, traffic jams.

By 2040, according to estimates, 37pc of the US National Highway Systems (NHS) will be clogged during peak hours, compared with 11pc in 2007.

While much of the data released in the report charts how an ever-increasing ageing population will contribute to more cars on the road, it does focus on four main technological solutions.

The first of these suggestions is to make cars into a vast communicating network that will share information among each other, particularly with the help of next-generation crash-avoidance technology which the DOT said can address 81pc of crashes that result from impaired drivers.

Technology affecting future traffic patterns. Image via the US Department of Transport

While people might be more inclined to take out their mobile phones during heavy traffic, smartphones could rather be used for a more important reason, that is, collecting live traffic information that could be seen by people planning their routes home, something internet search giant Google is already undertaking in Google Maps.

With the growth of big data expected to increase annually by 40pc, the DOT sees this gathered traffic information also contributing to car-­sharing, ride­-sharing, pop-­up bus services and rapid delivery of goods.

Likewise, for the greater freight transportation infrastructure, the DOT foresees the introduction of advanced robotics, particularly with regard to the infrastructure’s inspection and moving of freight.

The Beyond Traffic project has already seen some of technology’s biggest names get on board with the plan, including Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, who launched the event with the US Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic