We’ve all been there – stuck in traffic, inching along, running late and getting angry when suddenly everyone starts moving. Just like that, the road clears. No flashing lights, no mangled cars, no clue to suggest what went wrong. They’re called phantom traffic jams, and mathematicians at MIT are determined to find out what causes them – and more importantly, how to prevent them.
Phantom jams are born of a lot of cars using the road. No surprise there. But when traffic gets too heavy, it takes the smallest disturbance in the flow – a driver laying on the brakes, someone tailgating too closely or some moron picking pickles off his burger – to ripple through traffic and create a self-sustaining traffic jam.
Read the article in Wired