Highway Traffic Stability

24 February 2011
Eddie Wilson
"Most drivers will recognize the scenario: you are making steady progress along the motorway when suddenly you come to a sudden halt at the tail end of a lengthy queue of traffic. When you move off again you look for the cause of the jam, but there isn't one. No accident damaged cars, no breakdown, no dead animal, and no debris strewn on the road. So what caused everyone to stop?" RAC news release (2005) The (by now well-known) answer is that such "phantom traffic jams" exist as waves that propagate upstream (opposite to the driving direction) - so that the vast majority of individuals do not observe the instant at which the jam was created - yet what exactly goes on at that instant is still a matter of debate. In this talk I'll give an overview of empirical data and models to describe such spatiotemporal patterns. The key property we need is instability: and using the framework of car-following (CF) models, I'll show how different sorts of linear (convective and absolute) and nonlinear instability can be used to explain empirical patterns.
  • Differential Equations and Applications Seminar