17 June 2009

From Wired.com's AUTOPIA 'Blog': Autopia Planes, Trains, Automobiles and the Future of Transportation MIT Hopes to Exorcise ‘Phantom’ Traffic Jams

I may have mentioned this before, so bear with me please.
Since my college days, especially since I've begun commuting to Frederick/Clarksburg from Hagerstown daily (almost 10 years now), I've wondered about traffic flow, traffic jams, etc. there's been some research done on it, but I, of course, had largely considered the psychological reasoning behind some of the causes (motivation for goal seeking behavior - e.g. in passing scenarios), but that segued into wondering about traffic jams and the communication of information (watching a series of brakelights flow down a line of traffic is like an ultra-slow fiber-optic situation).
Per the title, they've "blogged", if you will, about some MIT research into this - I think I may have previously discussed the Japanese research referenced in the AUTOPIA posting.
From the post:

"The equations MIT came up with are similar to those used to describe fluid mechanics, and they model traffic jams as a self-sustaining wave.

“We wanted to describe this using a mathematical model similar to that of fluid flow,” Kasimov said.

The researchers hit upon the equation after an experiment by Japanese researchers demonstrated the formation of jamitrons on a circular road. In that experiment, drivers were instructed to travel 30 kilometers an hour (18.6 mph) while maintaining a constant distance between cars. It didn’t take long before disruptions occurred and phantom jams formed. Denser traffic brought quicker jams."

So yeah, fascinating stuff for me. Being able to consider what I'm stuck in scientifically, positing potential solutions while waiting for the jam to clear, has kept me sane more than once.
I'd consider collecting data, but that's as bad as picking the pickles off your burger in traffic, and I don't want to be that guy.

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