Ever wonder why traffic jams develop on highways for no reason? Well, Science believes they have a clue.
Driving is a pleasure. Well, in art it is. In the realities of life, it’s a trial, a pox and goddamn it, what are you braking for? The traffic jam is the bitterest of all the road going conserves, and the weevils that swim in it, certainly cannot drive. However, we’ve all been subject to the wily vague whims of the blacktopped beast, namely, what’s the deal when like there’s a traffic jam, when there’s like no accident and stuff?
Well, there is a very good answer for that, and it involves graphs. And taxpayer money funnelled into tertiary education.
So, say you’re on a highway, and enough vehicles populate it, as soon as some moron hits the anchors, it creates a ripple effect to those unfortunate enough to sit behind them, cue the wave, and then eventually, many voiceboxes are ruffled with the vibrations of complaint. This much we know.
“These traffic waves arise from small perturbations in a uniform traffic flow, like a bump in the road, or a driver braking after a moment of inattention,” says Benjamin Seibold, a mathematician at Temple University who’s worked with colleagues on understanding the phenomenon. He’s come up with a nifty measure, with an even niftier name, which illustrated two things. He’s a smart lad, and he’s absolutely a hit with the ladiez. Or the menz. Or whoever he fancies.
The calculations are called jamitons, because they’re analogous to waves in physics called solitons.
Yeah, us neither.
Luckily this graph explains it.
Yeah, us neither. Fortunately, the Japanese have made it easy for us.
Simples. Now, the obvious question is who is to blame. The answer, is all of us. The key according to Seibold is: “If people anticipate higher traffic densities ahead, and take their feet off the gas earlier and leave more room in front of them — instead of waiting until they have to brake — that can prevent traffic jams from arising.”
So, if I’ve understood the above correctly, the key is to never ever use the brake. Right? No?
“We’re usually inclined to think that these must be caused by an individual driver,” Seibold says. “But the models show that even if all drivers drive by the exact same rules, and no one does anything wrong, these waves can still arise.”
These jams, in essence, emerge whenever you have enough humans driving cars on a highway. So the only real way to eliminate them probably involves either handing the wheel over to something other than a human driver, or walking.