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MIT mathematicians model traffic jams like detonation waves

Most drivers have been stuck in a traffic jam at one point or another. Some of the jams are caused by an accident or closed lanes. Other traffic jams crop up with seemingly no reason.

A group of mathematicians at MIT is working on the development of a new model to explain how and why these so-call phantom traffic jams form. According to the researchers, these types of phantom traffic jams form when there are a lot of cars on the road and small disturbances like a driver hitting the brakes too hard or getting too close to another car. These little disturbances can escalate into a self-sustaining traffic jam.

The model developed by the team of researchers may help road designers build roads to minimize the possibility of phantom traffic jams. The key to the study is the discovery that the mathematics of these jams called jamitons are very similar to the equations used to describe the detonation waves produced by explosions.

The discovery of the jamitons allowed the researchers to solve traffic jam equations first theorized in the 1950's. The equations are reportedly similar to those used in fluid mechanics and model traffic jams as self-sustaining waves. The equations allowed the researchers to calculate the conditions that case a jamitons to form and how fast the jamiton will spread.

According to the researchers, once this type of jamiton forms it is nearly impossible to break up and a driver’s only choice is to wait the jamiton out. The researchers say that the new model can help road designers to determine speed limits that are safer and find stretches of road where accidents are more likely.

One of the researchers, Aslan Kasimov, said, "We wanted to describe this using a mathematical model similar to that of fluid flow." Kasimov and his team say that they discovered that jamitons have a sonic point that separates traffic flow into upstream and downstream components. Communication of the cause of the jamiton to drivers it the downstream segment of traffic is impossible say the researchers.

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By Amiga500 on 6/10/2009 11:31:25 AM , Rating: 2
3D is needed.

It won't come before proper electrogravimetrics techniques arrive.

Sure, you can alleviate some problems with bridges and underpasses (2-D routes) and perhaps solve this with variable speed limits that traffic controllers impose, but with traffic forever growing, its pissing into the wind.

By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 6/10/2009 11:43:42 AM , Rating: 2
When we go to 3-D, I will go back to practicing law. Think of the exponential growth in accident cases as people collide in two planes (I mean, two dimensional planes, not airplanes - although it will be the same thing.) Plus the people on the ground will always win. Let me get those ambulance chasing shoes on... btw, where will we get the fuel to keep all these vehicles in the air?

By Amiga500 on 6/10/2009 3:39:29 PM , Rating: 2
You honestly think strict autopilots will not exist to over-ride collisions?

Heck, its why the personal car/plane thingy won't take off... ever... until there are sufficient safeguards against user (read: Driver) stupidity.

By acase on 6/10/2009 11:46:14 AM , Rating: 4
I seem to recall George Jetson still having quite a bit of trouble in the mornings.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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