When I mentioned my earlier post about questions I had about driving in traffic, Jordan pointed me at this article that claims that a single driver, by leaving a large amount of open space while entering a traffic jam, can actually (at times) break up the jam. Which is pretty amazing, if true. The author claims that he’s repeatedly seen the effects himself; some experimental verification on my commutes home (or that matter, to work) is clearly in order.

I should also spend some timing digging up animations of this effect. The author in question gives a nice start with this page showing how typical merge patterns are inefficient: both sides look pretty plausible to me, and if you count the cars per flashing arrow, the stop-and-go side has half the throughput of the smoothly flowing side. Of course, that’s somewhat tangential to the claim at hand: it’s nice to know that smoothly flowing traffic leads to higher throughput, but what I’d really like to see is an illustration of his claim that a single car can, at times, create a smoothly flowing merge situation. Lots of links left for me to follow; maybe I’ll find something else fun.

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