Mechanisms for spatiotemporal pattern formation in highway traffic models

R E Wilson

Research output: Working paper

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A key qualitative requirement for highway traffic models is the ability to replicate a type of traffic jam popularly referred to as a phantom jam, shock wave or stop- and-go wave. Despite over 50 years of modelling, the precise mechanisms for the generation and propagation of stop-and-go waves and associated spatiotemporal patterns are in dispute. However, the increasing availability of empirical data sets, such as those collected from MIDAS (motorway incident detection and automatic signalling system) inductance loops in the UK, or the NGSIM (next generation simulation) trajectory data project in the USA, mean that we can expect to resolve these questions definitively in the next few years. This paper will survey the essence of the competing explanations of highway traffic pattern formation and introduce and analyse a new mechanism, based on dynamical systems theory and bistability, which can help resolve the conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2007

Bibliographical note

Additional information: Preprint article submitted to the Royal Society


  • highway traffic modelling
  • nonlinear dynamics
  • stop-and-go waves


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