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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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RE: The source is pretty simple really
By mdogs444 on 6/10/2009 11:54:53 AM , Rating: -1
Agreed, so mdog you'd rather I stop while entering a 70+ MPH highway via the on ramp, rather than you following the correct distance at that speed, which would have created more than enough room for a safe merge.

First off, the person doing the merging I believe is responsible for yielding when going on the freeway. You are not entitle to get over at the end of the ramp doing whatever speed you are doing...its up to you to slow down or speed up in order to find space to merge.

Second, perhaps its not always me that is causing the problem, but it could be someone on my tail as well.

Im sure you always leave 3 cars distances and go the speed limits though in traffic...<roll eyes>
no one should merge because your following too close.

No, I said you should not merge when the space is not adequate enough. Just putting on a turn signal does not mean you have the right to move over at that moment. This is not even just about on ramps. This can be 4 lanes over.

By bhieb on 6/10/2009 12:06:57 PM , Rating: 5
Actually if you paid attention in driving school, yes they have to yield, but as a courtesy driver you also have a responsibility to let them in safely provided they are doing roughly the same speed (again not the grandma here).

What is your grand solution then. Assuming the highway is at max capacity (everyone is bumper to bumper no more room) do they just sit on the on ramp until rush hour is over? Then you'd be the guy 3 cars deep honking and flipping them off because they cannot merge using your standards. The problem is too many cars simple as that. Yes dumb drivers are a problem, but your point here is not an issue. The guy trying to get in at highway speeds is not the BIG problem, the ahole honking and flipping people off is causing far more "ripples" than that guy.

RE: The source is pretty simple really
By Mitch101 on 6/10/2009 12:36:34 PM , Rating: 5
On the flip side there are idiots who have the mentality NOT IN FRONT OF ME YOU DONT! and speed up closing the hole which would have made merging with the flow smooth but now have a do I go for it or apply the brakes situation because I am running out of room. Sadly I want to say there are more people trying to close that gap by speeding up instead of working with the person trying to merge. Im not trying to pass you but there is much more room in front on you because there are 4 cars tailgating each other behind you.

In all cases I try to change lanes if possible to make for the person merging but not everyone is capable of changing lanes for courtesy.

The reality is there are many people who just cant drive and if you listen to Ron White sometimes you will learn that while you can change just about anything on a person but you cant fix stupid.

By OCedHrt on 6/10/2009 8:26:13 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone is a bit over sensitive here. I don't think mdogs intended the "NOT IN FRONT OF ME" mentality. I have frequently encountered drivers who think turning on the turn signal gives them the right to merge. It doesn't. These are the same drivers that cause accidents by merging into the car next to them.

Applying this to the on ramp: Just because you sped up to 65 or 70 doesn't mean you can merge without looking. As the person entering moving traffic, YOU have to find the space to enter. Of course, a courteous driver on the outside lane does help. In the case of bumper to bumper traffic where there is no space to merge, I'm pretty sure the flow up traffic is not 65+ mph and more like 5 mph. If the traffic can flow up 65+ mph, there WILL be more than your share of adequate spaces to merge into.

RE: The source is pretty simple really
By croc on 6/10/09, Rating: -1
"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)

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