Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Science Behind Traffic Jams

In high density traffic, small disturbances like braking too hard or getting too close to another car can quickly amplify into a traffic jam. MIT research is explaining why.

The mathematics of traffic jams are strikingly similar to the equations used to describe fluid mechanics, i.e. traffic acts a lot like fluids. Fluids flow as one unit and bunch up when the pathway becomes restricted.

Variables such as traffic speed and density help calculate when a jam will form and how fast it will spread. Once formed, there's nothing you can do except wait. So the plan is to design roads with enough capacity to keep traffic density low.

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