Phantom Traffic Jams Explained

Phantom Traffic Jams Explained!


Why we like this:
Because who hasn’t dropped into first gear on the Interstate for no good reason?

Source: YouTube/MIT via Channel 19

Gist: You gotta love MIT. First they give us Andrea Wong. Now they go out and try to solve one of man’s great vexes: the unidentifiable traffic jam. Is there any chance one of these engineers didn’t think of this while stuck in Boston traffic? From MIT’s site:

“Such phantom jams can form when there is a heavy volume of cars on the road. In that high density of traffic, small disturbances (a driver hitting the brake too hard, or getting too close to another car) can quickly become amplified into a full-blown, self-sustaining traffic jam.

A team of MIT mathematicians has developed a model that describes how and under what conditions such jams form, which could help road designers minimize the odds of their formation.”

Here’s the model:


Photo of Cairo traffic jam by tronics

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