Vehicle automation and freeway ‘pipeline’ capacity in the context of legal standards of care

The study evaluates, in the context of freeway segments, the interaction between automated cars’ kinematic capabilities and the standard legal requirement for the operator of an automobile to not strike items that are in its path (known as the ‘Assured Clear Distance Ahead’ criterion). The objective is to characterize the impacts of ACDA-compliant driving behavior on the system-level indicator of roadway-network capacity. We assess the barriers to automated cars operating non-ACDA-compliant driving strategies, develop a straightforward ACDA-compliant automated-driving model to analytically estimate freeway ‘pipeline’ capacity, compare this behavior to human drivers, and interpret quantitative findings which are based on a range of rationally-specified parameter values and explicitly account for kinematic uncertainty. We demonstrate that automated cars pursuing ACDA-compliant driving strategies would have distinctive “fundamental diagrams” (relationships between speed and flow). Our results suggest that such automated-driving strategies (under a baseline set of assumptions) would sustain higher flow rates at free-flow speeds than human drivers, however at higher traffic volumes the rate of degradation in speed due to congestion would be steeper. ACDA-compliant automated cars also would have a higher level of maximum-achievable throughput, though the impact on maximum throughput at free-flow speed depends on the specific interpretation of ACDA. We also present a novel quantification of the tradeoff between freeway-capacity and various degrees of safety (one failure in 100,000 events, one failure in 1,000,000, etc.) that explicitly accounts for the irreducible uncertainty in emergency braking performance, by drawing on empirical distributions of braking distance testing. Finally, we assess the vulnerability of ACDA-compliant automated cars to lateral ‘cut-ins’ by vehicles making lane changes. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of policy questions and research needs.

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    • Copyright © 2019 Scott Le Vine et al. The contents of this paper reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Transportation Research Board or the National Academy of Sciences.
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  • Publication Date: 2019-8


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01717886
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 25 2019 3:06PM