Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bad driving holds the secret to traffic forecasts

01.07.2004


A traffic simulation system is helping drivers by predicting jams on Germany’s autobahn network up to an hour before they happen. The secret of its success is to take into account the way real drivers - and their cars - behave. When engineers model the way road traffic flows they break the traffic down into three categories: freely flowing, jammed, and an intermediate state called synchronised flow in which dense traffic moves in unison, like marchers moving in step.

But this synchronised flow is unstable. One car pulling into another lane and forcing the driver behind to brake hard is enough to start traffic bunching up. This can quickly develop into a jam that propagates backwards through the traffic like a wave. Failure to predict this "pinch effect" has stymied past attempts to model traffic flow.

Now Michael Schreckenberg and colleagues at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany have developed a computer model that successfully reproduces the pinch effect. "It is the first model to reproduce all known traffic states," says team member Robert Barlovic. The team’s trick is to be realistic about driver behaviour. "Real drivers tend to hinder each other when doing things like changing lanes. All this has to be taken into account," says Schreckenberg. And where previous models have simplified the way cars move- by assuming they can stop immediately without slowing down first, for example- the new model is more sophisticated.



Schreckenberg’s computer model divides the road into a regular grid, with one line of cells representing each lane on a highway. Cells in the grid are marked as either containing a vehicle or empty. The number of empty cells between the virtual vehicles depends on the way the drivers are behaving. Accuracy not seen before has been achieved by modelling two behaviours, says Schreckenberg. These are dubbed "aggressive" behaviour, in which drivers either get too close to the car in front and have to brake, or in which they change lanes too quickly, forcing others to brake. The second behaviour is "defensive", in which they drive at a generally safe distance.

As the model runs, it moves vehicles according to rules that embody realistic rates of acceleration and deceleration. No infinite decelerations are allowed, for instance. The result is a software model that combines realistic driver behaviour with realistic physics.

The model is already being used to forecast traffic on the autobahn network around the city of Cologne, based on traffic data gathered in real time from sensors buried in the road. Its forecasts, which predict conditions up to an hour ahead, are displayed on the web at www.autobahn.nrw.de. More than 90 per cent of time, it correctly predicts traffic density.

But the website has already become a victim of its own success, admits Schreckenberg. Some of the 300,000 people a day who are visiting the site are replanning their journeys on the basis of its forecasts, and this is beginning to make the forecasts themselves less accurate. And soon it could get even worse when the website becomes available on 3G cellphones, he says.

So the researchers are now trying to adjust the way the traffic information is provided to drivers to take this destructive effect into account. One idea, says Schreckenberg, might actually be to provide less complete traffic information to encourage drivers to adopt more varied strategies for evading congestion, so they do not all flock to the same exits.

Justin Mullins | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uni-duisburg-essen.de

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Self-assembling nano inks form conductive and transparent grids during imprint

Transparent electronics devices are present in today’s thin film displays, solar cells, and touchscreens. The future will bring flexible versions of such devices. Their production requires printable materials that are transparent and remain highly conductive even when deformed. Researchers at INM – Leibniz Institute for New Materials have combined a new self-assembling nano ink with an imprint process to create flexible conductive grids with a resolution below one micrometer.

To print the grids, an ink of gold nanowires is applied to a substrate. A structured stamp is pressed on the substrate and forces the ink into a pattern. “The...

Im Focus: The Glowing Brain

A new Fraunhofer MEVIS method conveys medical interrelationships quickly and intuitively with innovative visualization technology

On the monitor, a brain spins slowly and can be examined from every angle. Suddenly, some sections start glowing, first on the side and then the entire back of...

Im Focus: Newly discovered material property may lead to high temp superconductivity

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory have discovered an unusual property of purple bronze that may point to new ways to achieve high temperature superconductivity.

While studying purple bronze, a molybdenum oxide, researchers discovered an unconventional charge density wave on its surface.

Im Focus: Mapping electromagnetic waveforms

Munich Physicists have developed a novel electron microscope that can visualize electromagnetic fields oscillating at frequencies of billions of cycles per second.

Temporally varying electromagnetic fields are the driving force behind the whole of electronics. Their polarities can change at mind-bogglingly fast rates, and...

Im Focus: Continental tug-of-war - until the rope snaps

Breakup of continents with two speed: Continents initially stretch very slowly along the future splitting zone, but then move apart very quickly before the onset of rupture. The final speed can be up to 20 times faster than in the first, slow extension phase.phases

Present-day continents were shaped hundreds of millions of years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart. Derived from Pangaea’s main fragments Gondwana...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

GROWING IN CITIES - Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Urban Gardening

15.07.2016 | Event News

SIGGRAPH2016 Computer Graphics Interactive Techniques, 24-28 July, Anaheim, California

15.07.2016 | Event News

Partner countries of FAIR accelerator meet in Darmstadt and approve developments

11.07.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

World first demo of labyrinth magnetic-domain-optical Q-switched laser

28.07.2016 | Information Technology

New material could advance superconductivity

28.07.2016 | Materials Sciences

CO2 can be stored underground for 10 times the length needed to avoid climatic impact

28.07.2016 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>