Traffic jams? MIT dons may have solution

June 10th, 2009 - 4:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 10 (IANS) Sick of spending countless hours in traffic jams? Frustrated with those jams which have no apparent cause — no accident or stalled vehicles? A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) mathematicians may have the answer to your traffic woes.
Phantom jams are those when there is no apparent reason — when no lanes are closed for construction, there is no accident nor are there any stalled vehicles. Such phantom jams can form when there are a large number of cars on the road. In high density traffic, even a small disturbance such as a driver hitting the brake too hard or getting too close to another car can develop into a self-sustaining traffic jam.

A team of MIT mathematicians has developed a model that describes how and under what conditions such jams form. The model could help road designers minimize such jams from forming in the future.

Aslan Kasimov, a lecturer of Mathematics at MIT said that the mathematics of such jams which the researchers have termed “jamitons” are very much alike to the equations that describe detonation waves produced by explosions. This discovery enabled the team to solve traffic jam equations that were first theorized in the 1950s.

Variables such as traffic speed and traffic density can be used to calculate the conditions under which a jamiton will occur and how fast it can spread.

“Once such a jam is formed, it’s almost impossible to break up — drivers just have to wait it out,” said lead author of the paper and former MIT math instructor Morris Flynn.

“The model could help engineers design roads with enough capacity to keep traffic density low enough to minimize the occurrence of such jams,” added Flynn.

–Indo-Asian-News Service

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