How to make autonomous vehicles coexist with other traffic

The road infrastructure must be prepared for self-driving vehicles – especially in the beginning when the concepts are still new. Researchers are contributing to this through CoEXist, an EU-funded research project in which VTI participates as the largest partner.

The gap between the rapid technological development within automation and the traffic planning needs to be reduced. Researchers have an important role to play by strengthening the road authorities capacities to manage the anticipated imminent traffic situation, where human-driven vehicles will be mixed with partially and fully self-driving vehicles.

“Now that CoEXist has essentially come halfway, it is time to sum up where we are so far,” says Johan Olstam, Senior Project Manager at VTI, where approximately ten researchers are working on the research project.

Gothenburg, Helmond, Milton Keynes and Stuttgart participate

In addition to a number of research organisations, the four cities of Gothenburg, Helmond in the Netherlands, Milton Keynes in the UK and Stuttgart in Germany are also participating. Each city has specified and developped traffic models for two use cases, in which real problems are studied in terms of traffic and space efficiency as well as safety aspects.


Photo: Lightpoet/Mostphotos

VTI and the City of Gothenburg are responsible for the Swedish use cases, in which the researchers are studying how the mix of various types of self-driving vehicles affects traffic performance. This concerns environments in which various types of traffic, including pedestrian and bicycle traffic, are required to share the same space , which is known as shared space. The researchers also investigate how accessibility is affected during periods with several long-term construction projects in the city.

Three pillars

CoEXist is built upon three pillars, whereof VTI leads the work for the latter two.

The first pillar concerns the development of traffic models.

“The traffic models are now updated in order to take various types of self-driving vehicles into account. The next phase is to apply them,” says Johan Olstam.

Within the second pillar the researchers are developing tools to assess how ready a road infrastructure is.

“Traffic models provide knowledge of flows, travel times, queue lengths, and more. However, such measurements do not say anything about how ready an infrastructure design is for self-driving vehicles. Therefore, a new tool has been developed for this purpose. The starting point is that self-driving vehicles should not have a negative effect on existing road users. We are looking specifically at what this entails for walking, cycling and public transport.”

Within the third pillar, researchers are working together with road authorities to prepare for the coming changes.

“We do this by evaluating eight existing infrastructure designs with the updated traffic models and the specially developed tool. We also assist in updating the road authorities’ traffic strategies and action plans so that they take the traffic systems of the future into account.

In the spring of 2019, the researchers within CoEXist will engage in the eight case studies, the autumn for analysis, followed by a few months to complete the final report.

More about CoEXist

The CoEXist project is funded with EUR 3.5 million within Horizon 2020, the EU programme for research and innovation. The research project is ongoing for three years from May 2017 until May 2020. In addition to Sweden, researchers from Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Italy are also participating.

Read more.

Johan OlstamContact:
Johan Olstam
VTI, Sweden


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