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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 omnicronx on 6/10/2009 12:45:45 PM , Rating: 0
I'm sorry but I think you've missed the point entirely. It is not tied to situations in which traffic jams were inevitable such as in high volume situations (or highway traffic at all for that matter, the same applies to intercity traffic), but situations in which a traffic jam would not have occurred if not for these small disturbances(At the very least situations in which a larger jam is created because of these disturbances). A prof at my university is doing exactly the same study and has been given a few million in funding on the project to figure out how they can improve intercity traffic. I remember reading part of his study as I was interested and even the smallest disturbance can have grave consequences down the line. This is hardcore physics, backed up with years of study.
If a guy is coming on the ramp at speed and you refuse to let give him a 1/2 second release of the gas, then you are the one forcing the cut off. If he slams into you of course legally he was supposed to yield, but every class/book/teacher out there says you should make room if possible.
I don't agree with this either. You are a bad driver if you are depending on others to slow down for you to let you in, defensive driving classes teach you to watch the traffic as you enter the onramp and wait for a space to become available. The excuse that someone is not letting you in is not an excuse at all, as you should have scoped out a space to enter to begin with.

What defensive classes will teach you is that many people do not adhere to these rules, and as such you are to give people space as if everyone on the road is an idiot. Just because you are taught to do this does not make it correct, they only tell you to do this because people do not follow the rules in the first place.

That being said, if everyone actually did what they were suppose to, you would not have to worry about people merging without care, and as a result, the ripple effect would not occur.

Personally I always leave space in front of me, but I rarely just let people in. As such I do not need to stop unexpectedly, even if someone merges in front me of, but rarely do I just let someone in. If they cannot time it correctly to enter the huge space in front of me, I'm not moving.

By omnicronx on 6/10/2009 12:48:47 PM , Rating: 1
And please do not bring 'How do I merge when there is a traffic Jam then, if nobody will let me in?' as this is beyond the scope of this study. It has nothing to do with traffic jams that have already occurred but the little things that occur before that could create or make traffic worse than it has to be down the line.

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