Compression Waves and Traffic

Posted by Keith McMillan

March 4, 2008 | 2 Comments

For quite a while, I’ve known that one of the most annoying aspects of traffic jams are the compression waves. With all the driving I’ve been doing lately, this has been on my mind. Compression waves in traffic occur when for some unknown reason, somebody has to break, then it cascades down the line, just like a slinky.

Well, according to an article on Slashdot, it turns out that this phenomenon is more than just an annoyance associated with traffic jams, it can cause them.

A team from Nagoya University in Japan had volunteers drive cars around a small circular track and monitored the way ‘shockwaves’ — caused when one driver brakes — are sent back to other cars, caused jams to occur.

This just reinforces that we really ought to get working on those smartcars, so the robots can save us from creating compression waves.


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Comment by Peter H Coffin
2008-03-04 22:46:51

Earlier experimental work on the same subject. It’s a set of essays that has guided my driving style for several years now. (And now you know why I drive like such a geezer.)

Comment by Peter H Coffin
2008-03-04 22:47:25

This would be more useful had I actually included the URL:

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