Deep in your heart you know it: there are like two drivers out there on the road that are causing all the traffic jams, and one of those arseholes is the guy right in front of you. Well, new information collected from hundreds and hundreds of drivers' mobile phones actually backs that up. Sort of. It turns out that it takes very few jackasses to screw things up for everyone.
In a study conducted by MIT and Berkley, 680,000 Boston commuters were tracked along their commutes — anonymously — as their mobile phones jumped from tower to tower. The resulting data gave a better picture of commuter habits than any old-fashioned survey had in the past.
During rush hour, a massive 98 per cent of roads were below peak capacity. But the 2 per cent that were over capacity were enough to cause traffic jams that spiralled out into the less crowded roads. Granted, not all cities are the same, but it goes to show the potential power of just a few crowded streets.
Now, in their defence, these troublemakers aren't necessarily doing anything bad besides being in the wrong place at the wrong time with too many of their buddies. And as such there's not much to do to alleviate the issue right now aside from trying to get them to take alternate routes. But detailed information like this could prove invaluable to the urban planners of the future, and could help minimise congestion while we wait for cars that drive in a smart-swarm.
For the time being, that guy you're tailgating very well may be one of the couple of jerks who are making the roads total hell. But if he is, chances are that you are too. [Boston Globe via Ars Technica]