A close look at the traffic flows through the cities

A close look at the traffic flows through the cities

There are so many ways to cut back on emissions. One highly efficient way is to arrange for traffic to flow more smoothly. Since 2010, the Volkswagen Group has been working together with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) on achieving this goal.

Managing traffic flows is a key issue both in huge megalopolises as well as in smaller towns and cities, where populations are nevertheless increasing. The Volkswagen Group is working alongside various experts to conduct research on future urban mobility, using an empirical approach. What might sound cryptic has a huge relevance to practice, as it addresses a large number of everyday questions relating to one and the same topic: Where, why and how do people move around their city? How do employees travel to the company they work at every day and return home – after stopping to do the shopping – in the evening? Where do pensioners go to shop, and how often do they do so over the course of a week? Where do “night-owl” students go to enjoy a city’s nightlife, and how to they get to bars and parties? What means of transport do parents use to bring their children to a day care centre – and when do they pick them up again?

From information to traffic planning

The scientists working with Peter Vortisch, Professor for Transport Studies at the KIT, are collecting this kind of information, asking people from 2,000 households detailed questions every year to obtain representative results. Individual traffic usage patterns are fed into computer-based models, which calculate several different variants for traffic planning, and filter out the best ones. And ideally, when these ideas are implemented by the municipalities, they result in optimal transport services and better connections. And that ultimately saves time, land resources, and fuel. “All research projects are highly dynamic”, says Peter Vortisch. “New driver assistance systems, automatic driving, car-sharing models and many other factors result in rapidly changing conditions.”

Traffic engineering

Another main emphasis of the research by the Volkswagen Group is on the area of traffic engineering. Intersections need to be designed to allow as many cars, bicycles, buses, trams and pedestrians to cross them within the shortest possible time. The better, faster and more effectively they function, the fewer congested intersections there are, and the more fuel that can be saved. Private passenger vehicle usage is far from becoming obsolete. This is because all modes of transport, including buses and trains, have long since reached their capacity limits – and in some places, are already exceeding them. Urban infrastructure is not growing adequately to satisfy the increasing demand resulting from the constant influx of new inhabitants. This is affecting both local public transport and individual means of transport.

The role of the automobile

Despite the creation of new infrastructure, public transport will still not be in a position to solely meet all of the transport requirements that people will have in the future. For this reason, it is necessary to give greater consideration to the role that automobiles will play in traffic: they will need to be more environmentally friendly, safer and more efficient, and to minimise its negative effects, or even eliminate them altogether. For Hans-Jürgen Stauss, Head of the Environment and Mobility Division at the Volkswagen Group, the cars of the future won’t be driving into intersections at 50 km/h anymore, but rather at 30 km/h if it means they can go through the intersection without delay, allowing start-and-stop traffic to be avoided altogether, thus saving fuel. – Volkswagen AG 

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