Vehicles photo

Sitting in traffic is miserable. It’s bad enough when the car congestion is caused by construction or crashes, but it’s a far worse feeling to get through a stop and go traffic blockage and find that there was no discernible reason for the slowdown.

Why do these slow spots pop up along the highways? That’s what computer models like Traffic-Simulation are designed to figure out. These simulations model the effects of changing various traffic conditions–such as the number of cars and trucks on the road, to the average distance between cars, average speed, and other factors–to see when and how traffic jams develop. Even something simple, like adjusting the number of trucks on the road can cause major (virtual) traffic headaches. Try adjusting the variables yourself.

Currently, the simulation website, designed by Martin Treiber, a professor at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, only has one simulation active. It’s a ring road that illustrates ‘shockwave’ slowdowns or traffic jams that progress back through a line of traffic. This isn’t the first time this has been demonstrated. Check out a real world version of the computer model below, where researchers from Japan had human drivers drive in a circle.

Vehicles photo

The website plans on adding additional simulations that model other critical traffic points like on-ramps, lane-changing, uphill roads, and restrictions like speed limits or lane closings. The idea is to use computer simulations to figure out what might happen if traffic patterns shift, and predict problem areas before they happen.

[Via BoingBoing ]