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posted by Fnord666 on Friday December 15 2017, @07:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the automate-that-already dept.

Gotta keep 'em separated:

When unexplained traffic jams happen, says an MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) study, you can probably blame tailgaters. The researchers say that if drivers kept an even distance between cars rather than driving too close to the vehicle in front, traffic flow would remain even. This "bilateral control," could double the speed of the average vehicle on busy highways.
This ideal is very different from what is the norm in most thinking about traffic, especially by those stuck in it. Drivers (and, consequently, vehicle control systems) tend to be looking ever forward, responding only to what's ahead and largely ignoring what's behind. Thus, in stop-and-go or slow-and-go situations (traffic jams), each vehicle reacts to the vehicle in front, causing intermittent slowdowns or stops (jams) in wave-like patterns. When vehicles are working to maintain equal distances both from the car in front and the vehicle behind, the MIT paper contends, these wave patterns are minimized and traffic flows more smoothly.

Maintaining even spacing facilitates lane changes and merges as well.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Phoenix666 on Friday December 15 2017, @09:14PM (5 children)

    by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 15 2017, @09:14PM (#610471) Journal

    It's true that you cannot control the distance between you and the car behind you. If the guy behind you wants to tailgate, there's nothing you can do without sacrificing the safe following distance you're maintaining between you and the guy ahead of you. If you speed up to recover equidistance between the one in front and the one behind, the one behind will simply catch up and resume tailgating.

    However, it's not necessary to pay attention to how much distance there is between you and the car behind you. You only have to keep safe distance in front of you and refuse to close it even if speeds on the road slow to single digits. If somebody wants to be a dick and jump into the space you've kept open, fine, let them. Re-establish your margin and keep it. When you come to a merge or somebody wants to or needs to change lanes to the spot ahead of you, they can without breaking your stride or jamming up the entire road, as they would with inadequate spacing. Everyone moves faster. Furthermore, it's contagious because it works.

    There's always gonna be the guy who wants to weave in and out of traffic like a dick, but if everyone else is keeping proper spacing at least that behavior is less likely to cause an accident and jam up the whole road for hours. Also, peer pressure is real and can damp down on bad behavior, because it then becomes obvious to everyone, including the lane-hopper, that he's being a colossal asshole.

    Washington DC delenda est.
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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by MostCynical on Friday December 15 2017, @10:34PM

    by MostCynical (2589) on Friday December 15 2017, @10:34PM (#610515) Journal

    Sharing? Calm driving? Are you some sort of socialist?!

    I happen to agree with you. Driving like the only thing matters is arriving, safely, eventually, is far betterthan getting there two minutes (or seconds) sooner.

    While the plural of anecdote is not data, we have all experienced the maniac over/undertaking/cutting off/etc, only to pull up behind/next to them a few sets of lights later.
    Suppose someone has to ensure the profit of sellers of hypertension medications!

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Friday December 15 2017, @10:50PM

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Friday December 15 2017, @10:50PM (#610522) Journal

    I think what TFA was suggesting exactly that - you try and cushion yourself between the car in front and the car behind. If the car behind closes in on you, close the distance with the car in front. If it gives you space, take a little more space from the car in front. If everyone averages their distances this way slowdowns have far less impact than if you have an unequal cushion between what's ahead of you and what's behind you. Too little space in front leads to you tapping your breaks and causing a wave. Too little space behind you and that driver will do the same.

    You can only push that so far and keep safety with what's ahead of you, obviously. The car behind can't go faster than the car in front, nor can you. But the suggestion is to manage the cushion around your car.

    Keep everyone ignorant of the magical world! KEEP AMERICA OBLIVIATE!
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by frojack on Saturday December 16 2017, @05:33AM (2 children)

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 16 2017, @05:33AM (#610623) Journal

    However, it's not necessary to pay attention to how much distance there is between you and the car behind you. You only have to keep safe distance in front of you and refuse to close it even if speeds on the road slow to single digits.

    Exactly. And this study is absolutely nothing new.

    An electrical engineer published his method of single-handedly erasing traffic-waves (standing slow spots) by doing exactly as you said. []

    He published it on the web way back in 98, and it caught the eye of quite a few people, some were outraged one guy would do this, and wrote letters and even tried to get him arrested. This study just proves he was right all along.

    Turns out the Highway patrol adopted his methods to clear standing jams:

    Rolling barriers made of State Troopers
    OK, so here's how to dissolve a major interstate traffic jam. Start many miles upstream from the jam. Put a row of State Trooper vehicles across the road and have them drive towards the jam. They drive perhaps at 55 rather than 70 as everyone else had been driving. Nobody can get by them, and so all the traffic behind the State Troopers is moving at 55 or so. In front of them a vast open space appears. After many minutes, the traffic which had been feeding into the city traffic jams simply stops arriving. There's little new traffic for many minutes. The huge jam trickles away. Just as the last of it is gone, the row of State troopers and the 55-mph traffic arrives, and the jam has been transformed into miles and miles of slightly slow traffic upstream from the old location of the jam.

    I've heard Washington State Troopers on the scanner calling in enough patrol cars (or sheriffs or what ever is handy, to put up a rolling slowdown to clear standing jams that might otherwise last for hours and stretch for 10 or 20 miles back along the highway with absolutely nothing blocking the roadway. They roll along side by side behind the jam at a steady but slower speed, never catching the jam, never stopping, and in one pass through the jam it is cleared completely.

    In Colorado they call it "Rolling Speed Harmonization". []

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    • (Score: 1) by ElizabethGreene on Saturday December 16 2017, @09:44PM (1 child)

      by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Saturday December 16 2017, @09:44PM (#610797)

      If you drive like this, in such a way as to remove standing waves, never tell anyone. People have a bucket they store road rage, and when you mention driving slower than the cars in front of you a portion of those people lose their minds and dump that rage bucket all over you.

      • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Sunday December 17 2017, @02:47PM

        by Phoenix666 (552) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 17 2017, @02:47PM (#610981) Journal

        That is true, but it's interesting to persist in maintaining safe distance, smoothing out jams, and watch it spread to the cars around you. Initially there are a couple hotheads who want to weave through the lanes, but they quickly get stuck and notice everyone else around them is moving better with less stress. You can almost see the lightbulbs going on in their heads.

        It's a fun little experiment I recommend to others here. Its power to lower your own traffic stress makes it worth doing, regardless.

        Washington DC delenda est.