Skip to Content
Smart cities

Self-driving cars could make urban traffic jams worse

June 27, 2018

Sorry to break it to you, but autonomous vehicles won’t rid the world of gridlock, according to new research.

The study: A report released today by the World Economic Forum and Boston Consulting Group used simulations to examine how traffic flows would change around the city of Boston as more robotic cars hit the roads.

The results: They found that self-driving cars could lead to a 5.5 percent increase in traffic in the city’s downtown. While there will be fewer cars on the road overall, congestion will increase because commuters will likely choose the new vehicles over public transportation.

The silver lining: Surrounding neighborhoods like the Allston-Brighton area would see about a 12 percent decrease in traffic. The number of parking spaces needed in Boston would also fall by 48 percent.

Why it matters: As we’ve written about extensively, US cities could be transformed by shared autonomous vehicles. Urban areas similar to Boston can prevent more gridlock by encouraging sharing of self-driving vehicles and continued use of mass transit. To do this, the report recommends lowering prices for autonomous carpoolers, converting parking lots into pick-up and drop-off zones, and creating self-driving-only lanes.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

This startup wants to copy you into an embryo for organ harvesting

With plans to create realistic synthetic embryos, grown in jars, Renewal Bio is on a journey to the horizon of science and ethics.

VR is as good as psychedelics at helping people reach transcendence

On key metrics, a VR experience elicited a response indistinguishable from subjects who took medium doses of LSD or magic mushrooms.

This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine

Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.