03 June 2019

Cars with no drivers: an SPbGASU student suggested to let self-driving cars on the Scandinavia motor road

Many people believe that the future belongs to self-driving vehicles, controlled by intellectual systems and not human drivers. One of those is SPbGASU student of the 5th grade Nikita Ivanov. He suggested a project for self-driving cars on the Scandinavia motor road.

Штаб студенческого отряда на встрече под гитару

We spoke with Nikita Ivanov and found out what are the benefits of self-driving cars and what sort of road would be an ideal one for him.

— Nikita, could you please tell us about your project in details?

— Our project is about the allocation and subsequent launch of a test segment on one of the three lanes of the Scandinavia motor road for the movement of autopilot vehicles. There are no exits within a 17.5 km segment of the road, and, by our assessments, there should be no problems for the rest of the road users. It is rather risky to let such cars into the general stream of transport. Therefore, for a start, it is necessary to create an infrastructure that would be supportive and safe for all road users, moving in both self-driving and conventional cars.

The use of an existing motor road was proposed with the aim of minimizing costs. It is assumed that there will be double control on the road: the visual signs on the roads and digital information embedded in the system.

— Why did you decide to develop this particular topic?

— The concept of my project is related with the national project of “Safe and quality roads” developed by the Ministry of Transport pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 204 of May 7, 2018, “On National Goals and Strategic Development Goals of the Russian Federation for the Period up to 2024”.

The idea has been developed in the context of the global trend of automation of driving and reduction of the human factor in grave road accidents. The GIBDD of Russia (State Traffic Safety Inspectorate) brings up the statistics showing that the absolute majority of road accidents are caused by drivers’ mistakes. In the case of self-driving cars such mistakes are out of question. 

Presently, the Ministry of Transport is testing technologies providing for the situation when cars are operated by a “smart” system. For example, if one car would put on the emergency brake, the information about this would be transferred via a communication channel to other cars, so that they could slow down in advance, even before they see the road obstruction. This could be imagined as a model of linked elements. There already exist the so-called “smart street crossings” when the function of a street light is performed by a road traffic control block. It distributes the car flow in such a way that they practically do not slow down passing a road crossing which helps to reach the maximal traffic capacity. 

Opinion of the research advisor

Nikita Ivanov’s research advisor, Head of the SPbGASU Department of Land Transport and Technological Vehicles, D.Eng.Sc. professor Sergey A. Yevtyukov said that the student would be recommended for postgraduate studies and that he would continue on the same topic. “He formulated a problem and found an optimal solution. The self-driving traffic on a dedicated lane will reduce the number of so-called conflict points on the road, and each point of the kind is a source of increased risk and road accidents. This is why the probability of road accidents will reduce in times.

Unmanned vehicles should be able to move separately from the rest of the transport. Ivanov considers not just a specially marked lane but a dedicated lane with a cut-off from oncoming and passing traffic by installing a fence.

The solution is quite original, because it is assumed that this lane will be not the extreme right one, but the extreme left. The right lane can be allocated only in foreign countries, where no roadsides exist even on highways. In our country, the roadside is provided by regulations, even on high-speed highways: in case of an unforeseen situation, you can always pull to the side of the road and avoid hindering the rest of the high-speed traffic. Therefore, it was decided to choose the extreme left lane.

Design in the sphere of unmanned vehicles is now actively developed throughout the world. In addition to reducing the number of accidents, autopilot cars can significantly change life for the better. This is especially true regarding the hard and monotonous work of truckers. Driving hundreds and even thousands of kilometers, the driver gets tired. With the help of the self-driving control, it will be a lot easier to move the cargo. It is not necessary that there would be no driver in the car at all, but at least, it is possible to significantly facilitate drivers’ work.

Text by Anzhella Semicheva

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