Traffic Paradox

autobahnThere’s a new, highly sophisticated model for traffic prediction on the block. Which would be helpful, if you happen to be driving the Autobahn. What’s interesting is that the new model predicts traffic with a high degree of accuracy, but may well make itself irrelevant as more and more people look to its predictions, and change their plans accordingly. While the model accurately predicts traffic density at a rate of 90% or better, the net result of 300,000+ people checking the forecasts daily may well undermine the model’s track record.

Another interesting tidbit from the article: what this new model does that older, much less accurate models did not, is base itself in part on bad driving. The new model (developed by engineers at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany) takes into account aggressive driving styles: drivers getting too close to the cars in front of them and being forced to break, drivers changing lanes too quickly, etc. The result of which is a highly accurate model.

(NewScientist: “Bad driving the secret to traffic forecasts,” by Justin Mullins [July 2, 2004])