Researchers Identify the Cause of Stop-and-Go Traffic
When I commuted to Tysons from DC, I would have lots of time stuck in stop-and-go traffic to consider the reasons and causes for traffic slowdowns. It seemed that often, we’d all be slowing down and then speeding up again for no reason. I always speculated that sudden braking could cause a wave of slowdowns that would propagate backwards for hours/miles, leading to the annoying slow-down-speed-up cycle.
A team of Japanese researchers recently created an experiment to show that the effect of breaking can easily create traffic jams. It’s all just physics. Their experiment shows that when the density of cars on the road passes a certain threshold, traffic jams will be caused simply by the multi-particle interactions of the system. In layman’s terms, drivers inconsistently hitting their breaks will cause a wave of stop-and-go backups behind them.