How Are Phantom Traffic Jams Caused

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Geo Beats
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Mathematicians from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a model to figure out why phantom traffic jams happen, only to find that they are caused by the collective behavior of drivers reacting to the traffic around them.

As a driver you’ve probably experienced what happens when the car in front of you slows down for no reason, causing you and the other cars behind you to slow down.

This reactionary effect is called a phantom traffic jam.

Mathematicians from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a model to figure out why phantom traffic jams happen, only to find that they are caused by the collective behavior of drivers reacting to the traffic around them.

Even when variables like on and off ramps, or lane changing are removed from the equation, phantom traffic jams still occur because of small abnormalities in the road, or a driver getting distracted for a moment.

When there is a lot of traffic on the road, the number of potential problems is amplified and even one small disturbance can interrupt the flow of traffic.

Reacting to the car in front of you slowing down is a necessary driving safety technique, but it also perpetuates the phantom traffic jam.

The research data might be used as a way to design better roads that have the capacity to prevent traffic jams.

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