Take up the study of earthquakes, volcanoes or stock markets and the goal, whether voiced or not, is to find a way to predict future “events” in your field. In that sense, these guys have something in common with scientists who study traffic jams.
The difference is that traffic experts might one day reach their goal. The complexity of traffic flow, while awe inspiring, may well be fundamentally different to the complexity of stock markets and earthquake events.
At least that’s how Dirk Helbing at the Institute for Transport & Economics at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany, and his buddies see it.
Helbing says that one long standing dream of traffic experts is to identify the fundamental patterns of traffic congestion from which all other flows can be derived, a kind of periodic table of traffic flows.
Now he thinks he has found it: a set of fundamental patterns of traffic flow that when identified on a particular road, can be used to create a phase diagram of future traffic states.
The phase diagrams can then be used to make forecasts about the way in which the flow might evolve.
That’ll be handy. But only if it’s then possible to do something to prevent the congestion. And that may be the trickiest problem of all.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0903.0929: Theoretical vs. Empirical Classification and Prediction of Congested Traffic States
The worst technology of 2021
Face filters, billionaires in space, and home-buying algorithms that overpay all made our annual list of technology gone wrong.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
Meet Altos Labs, Silicon Valley’s latest wild bet on living forever
Funders of a deep-pocketed new "rejuvenation" startup are said to include Jeff Bezos and Yuri Milner.
A gene-edited pig’s heart has been transplanted into a human for the first time
The procedure is a one-off, and highly experimental, but the technique could help reduce transplant waiting lists in the future.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.