Traffic Jam Hack

A great read for a slow news day: Electrical engineer William Beatty’s 1998 account of how he experimented with modulating the waves of stop and go traffic. Read it for the hack, but also for the philosophical conclusion:

It’s always a good idea to drive without changing speed and without competing with other drivers for bits of headway. I’d always assumed that the reasons were philosophical rather than practical (i.e. try to be a calm, nice person.) But my above experience shows differently. A single solitary driver, if they stop “competing” and instead adopt some unusual driving habits, can actually wipe away some of the frustrating traffic patterns on a highway. That “nice” noncompetitive driver can erase traffic waves. I suspect that the opposite is also true: normal competitive behavior CREATES the traffic waves.

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