UC Berkeley researchers behind the world’s largest open-track traffic experiment

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UC Berkeley researchers behind the world's largest open-track traffic experiment
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SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — Traffic jams in the Bay Area are preventing so many of us from spending more time at home, and research reveals most of it is our fault.

Today, the world’s largest open-track traffic experiment is underway to test technology that can help drivers overcome the shortcomings.

Many drivers are frustrated after being stuck in a traffic jam for a long period of time only to clear it and see that there was no accident or other obvious cause.

Experts call it a phantom traffic jam and it is caused by human behavior.

Now researchers and students at UC Berkeley are pioneering automotive automation software that hopes to help ease those traffic jams and even reduce energy consumption.

LEARN MORE: What is “occasional carpooling”? Here’s why Bay Area commuters are calling for its return

“We tested them extensively in simulation, but the data we collect in the real world can definitely give us more insights,” said Arwa AlAnqary, a second-year doctoral student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. UC Berkeley.

This week, UC Berkeley researchers and students traveled to Nashville to help test it in the real world on the road with 100 cars.

“Finally being able to see our algorithm running on a real car and see the speed of change in real time. Really remarkable,” said Kathy Jang, a student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at UC Berkeley.

The research was carried out by what’s called the CIRCLES Consortium and some big-name automakers have been on board when the AI-equipped cars hit the road.

“The vehicle will receive traffic data and with that we will make informed decisions on how the vehicle should speed up or slow down based on the congestion it sees or does not see,” said Maria Laura Delle Monache, assistant professor. with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley.

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Prior to this full-scale test, 20 cars were tested on a closed track with only one car fitted with the automation system.

They found that one car out of 20 eased the stop-and-go pattern that causes congestion and changed the driving behavior of the other 20 cars.

Their goal with this larger scale open track test is to see if this improvement can hold.

It finally ended on Friday and while there is still data to analyze from the week-long test and we still have many years to roll it out, the researchers say things are still going well and that they work hard to help their community.

“My friends know what I’m looking for,” Jang said, “They have high hopes for me to reduce traffic in the Bay Area and I want to help them achieve that.

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