Exciting Traffic Jams: Nonlinear Phenomena Behind Traffic Jam Formation on Highways

This article considers the use of a non-linear car-following model to explain traffic jam formation on highways. The authors incorporated driver reaction time delay by using state-of-the-art numerical continuations techniques. These techniques elucidate the detailed microscopic dynamics as well as the macroscopic properties of traffic flow. Parameter domains are determined where the uniform flow equilibrium is stable but sufficiently large excitations may trigger traffic jams. This behavior becomes more robust as the reaction time delay is increased. There are unstable small-amplitude oscillations that separate the uniform traffic flow and the large-amplitude stop-and-go solutions. Along the excitable regime, the amplitude of critical perturbations decreases as the traffic becomes more and more dense, until the regime of spontaneous jam formation is reached. The authors contend that in order to understand the emergent behavior of traffic, it is crucial to pay attention to the behavior of individual drivers. A single driver can trigger a stop-and-go wave by tapping the brake hard enough. However, is such braking is below a critical limit, the ripples decay and the flow remains smooth. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the implications of this research for ramp metering on highways.

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  • Authors:
    • Orosz, Gabor
    • Wilson, R Eddie
    • Szalai, Robert
    • Stepan, Gabor
  • Publication Date: 2009-10


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01148155
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Dec 31 2009 9:59AM