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Congestion caused by a road accident, Algarve,...

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We’ve all been stuck in that traffic jam (or back up) where a long line of vehicles has ground to a halt and there appears to be no obvious reason why.

Well, there have been a couple of studies lately into what exactly what causes these ‘Phantom Traffic Jams’. MIT even took up the challenge. (link below)

In theory, if you have a number of unimpeded vehicles traveling at a constant speed there should be no reason for brakes, no need for slowing down and reason for traffic to start backing up.

However, study findings have indicated that inevitably there is a vehicle in front of you. it’s all down to the car in front of you and then the chain reaction begins.

It is what makes the car what is is that also makes it fallible – i.e the ability to control the vehicle and the person controlling the vehicle.

Without using artificial methods such as cruise control it is very, very hard to maintain a constant speed in a car. it is maintaining a constant speed, or faster, that keeps traffic flowing.

In an attempt to maintain speed as best as possible the human driving the car has to apply appropriate pressure to the accelerator or brake pedals.
However, when following any vehicle that applies their brakes you have to do the same, the person behind you applies theirs and the trend continues.

Combined vehicle braking causes inevitable traffic disruption.

What can we do about it? Well, there’s not a lot really. Leaving enough of a cushion between you and the car in front of you isn’t really an option because there is always someone who decides to fill that gap – causing you to apply your brakes.

Maybe one day, with the advent of automated cars we will have less human interaction behind the wheel and less braking to do.\

MIT Hopes to Exorcise ‘Phantom Traffic Jams’

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Author: Andy Quayle

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