Traffic during rush hour or when an accident has happened on the road ahead are both expected, but there are a lot of avoidable reasons for traffic in cities all over the globe: Slowing down to see something on the side of the road, messy merging, and challenges within a city’s infrastructure. From Vox in 2016:
“If there are enough cars on a highway, any minor disruptions to the flow of traffic can cause a self-reinforcing chain reaction: one car brakes slightly, and the ones behind it brake just a bit more to avoid hitting it, with the braking eventually amplifying until it produces a wave of stopped or slowed traffic.”
“‘These traffic waves arise from small perturbations in a uniform traffic flow, like a bump in the road, or a driver braking after a moment of inattention,’ says Benjamin Seibold, a mathematician at Temple University who’s worked with colleagues on understanding the phenomenon.
“Even when cars leave this traffic wave, though, the wave itself doesn’t disappear: it gradually drifts backward, against the direction of traffic. “It’s typically 100 to 1000 meters long, and it usually begins with vehicles running into a sudden increase in density at the start, and a drop in velocity,’ Seibold says. ‘Then, after that, they slowly accelerate again.'”
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