Skip to Content
Smart cities

Self-driving cars could make city congestion a whole lot worse

February 1, 2019

If you think traffic in cities is bad now, just wait until autonomous vehicles arrive, cruising around to avoid paying pricey parking fees.

Perverse incentives: Driverless cars will snarl up city roads because cruising will cost less than parking, Adam Millard-Ball, associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, writes in Transport Policy. Even worse, because cruising is cheaper at lower speeds, they’ll slow traffic to a crawl as they kill time, he says: "They will have every incentive to create havoc."

2 mph: Using a combination of game theory and traffic simulation models, Millard-Ball predicts that under the best-case scenario, even just 2,000 self-driving cars in San Francisco would slow overall traffic to less than two miles per hour.

The solution? He suggests cities impose congestion fees like those in London, Singapore, and Stockholm, where motorists pay a flat fee to enter the city center. And we should implement them now, before autonomous vehicles arrive.

This story first appeared in our newsletter The Download. Sign up here to get your daily dose of the latest in emerging tech.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Large language models can do jaw-dropping things. But nobody knows exactly why.

And that's a problem. Figuring it out is one of the biggest scientific puzzles of our time and a crucial step towards controlling more powerful future models.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

How scientists traced a mysterious covid case back to six toilets

When wastewater surveillance turns into a hunt for a single infected individual, the ethics get tricky.

Google DeepMind’s new generative model makes Super Mario–like games from scratch

Genie learns how to control games by watching hours and hours of video. It could help train next-gen robots too.

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.