HOWTO singlehandedly erase traffic jams by driving slow


Update: I've updated the link to Bill Beaty's original article -- the one I linked to originally was a scumbag plagiarist.

Jeffrey sez, "A fascinating article about what causes traffic jams, and how to drive differently to help ease 'stop and go' traffic. It is interesting to see how basic human instincts (or maybe just the way we have been taught how to drive) can turn a crowded road into one that is jammed with stop and go traffic. It is probable that self-driving cars will eliminate many of these issues before many humans have time to learn these techniques. However, it is very encouraging to hear the author's anecdote about how he was able to singlehandedly erase a traffic jam in his own lane:"

On a day when I immediately started hitting the usual "waves" of stopped traffic, I decided to drive slow. Rather than repeatedly rushing ahead with everyone else, only to come to a halt, I decided to try to drive at the average speed of the traffic. I let a huge gap open up ahead of me, and timed things so I was arriving at the next "stop-wave" just as the last red brake lights were turning off ahead of me. It certainly felt weird to have that huge empty space ahead of me, but I knew I was driving no slower than anyone else. Sometimes I hit it just right and never had to touch the brakes at all, but sometimes I was too fast or slow. There were many "waves" that evening, and this gave me many opportunities to improve my skill as I drove along.

I kept this up for maybe half an hour while approaching the city. Finally I happened to glance at my rearview mirror. There was an interesting sight.

It was dusk, the headlights were on, and I was going down a long hill to the bridges. I had a view of miles of highway behind me. In the other lane I could see maybe five of the traffic stop-waves. But in the lane behind me, for miles, TOTALLY UNIFORM DISTRIBUTION. I hadn't realized it, but by driving at the average speed, my car had been "eating" traffic waves. Everyone ahead of me was caught in the stop/go cycle, while everyone behind me was forced to go at a nice smooth 35MPH or so.

TRAFFIC WAVES (Thanks, Bill!)