There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in traffic for half an hour only to have the congestion ‘magically’ clear and find there was no visible cause for the delay. |
The slowing of traffic flow can have a dramatic affect on the time it takes drivers to complete delivery jobs, so it makes sense to try to understand just what causes these maddening delays.
Well now, thanks to Martin Treiber and his new Traffic Simulation app, we can get a better understanding of how traffic naturally flows and how certain obstructions and circumstances can affect it.
What Treiber’s app shows is that traffic can be subject to ‘phantom’ traffic jams. Like the famous ‘Butterfly Effect’ – which suggests that an insect flapping its wings in one place can have a ripple effect which grows and grows until it could potentially cause a tidal wave on another part of the planet – traffic can be subject to a similar thing.
Traffic Simulation shows that while tidal waves are unlikely on the M25, one car slowing slightly can cause a ‘ripple’ of slowing down which can stretch several miles and become a traffic jam. Hence the ‘magical’ disappearance of congestion without a visible cause.
How to Use the App
Treiber has created a number of scenarios which any real driver might encounter on delivery jobs, including a ring road, road works, uphill sections of road and rerouting (due to an obstacle or road works).
The user is able to see how traffic will flow under these circumstances and then is able to alter them by increasing elements like the density of traffic, the type of traffic, the rate of acceleration and the amount of lane changing.
Watching how the alteration of these seemingly tiny elements can affect the traffic flow over many miles will help you to understand how and why traffic flows the way it does.
What Good Can it Do?
While the Traffic Simulation app is interesting and fun for those of us who make our living from delivery jobs on the road network, Treiber hopes that his app will go even further. He believes that by understanding how traffic flows and studying how to make it move more efficiently, planners will be able to improve our road systems without the time and cost involved in altering the existing infrastructure.
He believes the roads we have could be used more efficiently by just making small changes in the traffic rules, such as altering speed limits, introducing new overtaking policies or even allowing undertaking to improve flow.
The app also suggests how new technology, such as adaptive cruise-control, could be used to improve flow on motorways by allowing more vehicles to use the space safely.
This kind of development may be some way off, but while we’re waiting for it it’s certainly worth drivers and managers taking the time to have a look at the Traffic Simulation app to better understand just what can keep us moving on the road.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day delivery jobs in the express freight exchange industry. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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