Autonomous vehicles in mixed motorway traffic: capacity utilisation, impact and policy implications

Andrea Vanesa Papu Carrone, Jeppe Rich*, Christian Anker Vandet, Kun An

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In upcoming years, the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) will reshape the transport system. The transition from a regular to an autonomous transport system, however, will take place over many years and lead to a long period with a mixed driving environment where AVs and regular vehicles (RVs) operate side by side. The purpose of this study is to investigate how the utilisation of the road capacity degrades as a function of heterogeneity in congested motorways. The analysis is based on a dedicated traffic simulator, which enables the investigation of complex dynamic spillback from congestion while allowing for different degrees of heterogeneity. The representation of autonomous vehicles is based on a modified intelligent driver model (IIDM) presented by Treiber et al. (Phys Rev E 62(2):1805–1824, 2000) and Treiber and Kesting (Traffic flow dynamics, Springer, Heidelberg, 2013), while the behaviour of drivers of RVs relies on a stochastic version of the IIDM. Three main conclusions stand out. Firstly, it is shown that in an idealised environment in which AVs operate alone, a substantially improved capacity utilisation can be attained. Secondly, when drivers of RVs are mixed with AVs, capacity utilisation degrades very fast as a function of the share of RVs. Thirdly, it is shown that the improved capacity utilisation of AVs comes in the form of reduced travel time and increased throughput, with indications that travel time reductions are the most important. From a strategical planning perspective, the results underline that dedicated lanes are preferable to attain the positive effects of AVs. Specifically, we compare a stylised situation with three lanes with a share of 33% AVs to a situation with two regular lanes and a single dedicated AV lane. The latter represents a tripling in consumer surplus all other things being equal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2907–2938
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Microsimulation
  • Consumer surplus
  • Heterogeneous vehicle types
  • IDM
  • Road capacity


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