‘Phantom Traffic’ Is Real, According To Scientists

Every driver has experienced traffic that seems to come out of nowhere and for no apparent reason. We sit patiently, crawling for what seems to be an age. Expecting to see the site of an accident or road works, neither appear. So what’s going on? Well, it turns out that ‘phantom traffic’ is a genuine phenomenon and scientists believe they know how to stop it.

Tailgaters Have A Lot To Answer For…

Describing the phenomenon, professor Berthold Horn said “you keep on saying, ‘There must be an accident, or construction or something.’ And then you drive and drive and drive … and there isn’t anything there.” But it turns out that such explanations aren’t needed and that traffic come form without them. How? Tailgating. This means that simply leaving sufficient amount of space between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you could put an end to the ordeal once and for all.

How It Works

Horn has explained that phantom traffic emerges when a driver slows down even slightly in dense traffic; which causes the car behind to slow even more. Live a wave, this reduction in speed spreads until cars are at a complete standstill. In order to avoid striking vehicles ahead, drivers are forced to stop their vehicles. Horn believes that the ‘wave’ effect can be prevented by cars simply leaving sufficient amounts of space between the car in front and behind. Calling this ‘bilateral control’, he believes it could be accomplished by a few simple modifications to currently existing adaptive cruise control technologies. This would mean putting an end to the problem long before the mass-adoption of autonomous vehicles.

The Extent Of The Problem

Traffic in general can be caused by all sorts of reasons, including poor road design and excessive utilisation of motor vehicles in a given region. Construction works and accidents can, as you’d expect, cause delays. In the UK, congestion costs the economy billions each and every year. Phantom jams only make the problem worse and Horn believes his solution can save governments money. He said, “Under reasonable conditions today, you might get 1,800 cars per lane per hour throughput.” He added, “with bilateral control, you could almost double that.” He’s tested bilateral control with a robot simulation, which has yielded promising results.

Horn’s experiments and testing involves the flight patterns of bats and birds and collaboration with Toyota. Until the new adaptive cruise control technologies are developed, or autonomous cars reach consumers, he simply advises drivers to leave space and the vehicles around them stating “There’s no advantage of riding up a tailpipe.”

Whether you’re plain sailing or regularly getting stuck in jams, your car will require regular service and maintenance. With over 16,000 approved garages, a 24/7 support service and a host of cost-saving offers, Autoserve can keep your car moving smoothly. Call one of our professional Service Advisers on 0121 521 3500 for more details.

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