Improving Urban Traffic Throughput with Vehicle Platooning

UC Berkeley | Platoon Driving Test

July 6, 2020

 Before California sheltered in place, UC Berkeley and ITS researchers were out in traffic showing how forming vehicle platoons can dramatically improve urban traffic flow in Arcadia, CA.  They recently published a paper and video on their research and demonstration. 

Funded by the National Science Foundation and DOT, Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) Chair Roberto Horrowitz leads the team of ME and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Professor Murat Arcak, EECS Professor and AV-Connect Inc’s Francesco Borrelli, EECS doctoral student Stanley W. Smith, EECS and ME doctoral students Yeojun Kim, Ruolin Li, and Roya Firoozi, California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology’s Alexander A. Kurzhanskiy, and AV-Connect Inc’s Jacopo Guanetti and Bruce Wootton.

The team’s test vehicles are equipped with connected vehicle technology which enables vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. With connectivity, the test vehicles are able to coordinate their motion in order to safely maintain the platoon formation in an urban setting with intersections and public traffic participants.

 A successful demonstration of vehicle platoons in urban traffic at the test site in Arcadia, near Los Angeles, CA is available here: and a detailed account is given in this article:

Improving Urban Traffic Throughput with Vehicle Platooning: Theory and Experiments

Stanley W. SmithYeojun KimJacopo GuanettiRuolin LiRoya FirooziBruce WoottonAlexander A. KurzhanskiyFrancesco BorrelliRoberto HorowitzMurat Arcak

In this paper we present a model-predictive control (MPC) based approach for vehicle platooning in an urban traffic setting. Our primary goal is to demonstrate that vehicle platooning has the potential to significantly increase throughput at intersections, which can create bottlenecks in the traffic flow. To do so, our approach relies on vehicle connectivity: vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication. In particular, we introduce a customized V2V message set which features a velocity forecast, i.e. a prediction on the future velocity trajectory, which enables platooning vehicles to accurately maintain short following distances, thereby increasing throughput. Furthermore, V2I communication allows platoons to react immediately to changes in the state of nearby traffic lights, e.g. when the traffic phase becomes green, enabling additional gains in traffic efficiency. We present our design of the vehicle platooning system, and then evaluate performance by estimating the potential gains in terms of throughput using our results from simulation, as well as experiments conducted with real test vehicles on a closed track. Lastly, we briefly overview our demonstration of vehicle platooning on public roadways in Arcadia, CA.