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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Get There Faster...Don't Tailgate

    According to a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study we would have fewer "phantom traffic jams" that arise without any apparent cause if drivers quit tailgating. 
    Their research shows that if drivers kept an equal distance between the cars in front of and behind them everyone would get to their destination almost twice as quickly! Naturally, researchers gave a name to keeping an equal distance between cars; they call it "bilateral control."
    One of the researchers stated that we tend to view the world in terms of what's ahead of us, both literally and conceptually, so it might seem counter-intuitive to look backwards. But, the outstanding claim was that driving like this could reduce travel time and fuel consumption without having to build more roads or make other changes to infrastructure.
     It's unlikely drivers will ever stop tailgating so, so the suggestion was that auto manufacturers design cruise-control systems and add sensors to both their front and rear bumpers. It is claimed that traffic would get noticeably better even if just a small percentage of all cars were outfitted with such systems. In future work funded in part by Toyota, there are actually plans to do simulation testing to see if this idea really is faster and safer.    
     Researchers were actually influenced in part by how flocks of starling birds move in tandem and claimed it requires knowing what is going on all around you, not just in front. One proposed approach is to electronically connect vehicles together to coordinate their distances between each other. Doesn't sound very practical to me. Supposedly the research team's solution would require new software and some inexpensive hardware updates.    
     Research involved looking at the density of entire highways and how miles of traffic patterns can be affected by individual cars changing speeds (called "perturbations). Their research showed that if drivers all keep an equal distance between the cars on either side of them, such 'perturbations' would disappear as they travel down a line of traffic, rather than amplify to create a traffic jam. For an explanation and short video of how these traffic jams work see HERE and HERE.
     Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman on the old Mythbusters had a better solution:

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