Data Visualization A visualization of traffic waves

Published on February 19th, 2014 | by Travis Korte


A Visual Explanation of Traffic Jams

One of the most frustrating aspects of traffic jams is how they can arise seemingly out of thin air, with no accident or lane closure to explain them. Scientists have long known that the underlying cause of this phenomenon is the domino-like braking effect known as a traffic wave.

But even though we understand these dynamics on paper, seeing them happen can help give a better intuition. A visualization published in November 2013 gives a stark illustration of  traffic waves, letting users hit the brakes on a simulated car and watch as the traffic stacks up behind it. The accompanying article explains how this effect results largely from humans’ slow reaction times, meaning that the adoption of autonomous vehicles with rapid reaction times could help alleviate traffic problems.

Take a look.

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About the Author

Travis Korte is a research analyst at the Center for Data Innovation specializing in data science applications and open data. He has a background in journalism, computer science and statistics. Prior to joining the Center for Data Innovation, he launched the Science vertical of The Huffington Post and served as its Associate Editor, covering a wide range of science and technology topics. He has worked on data science projects with HuffPost and other organizations. Before this, he graduated with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley, having studied critical theory and completed coursework in computer science and economics. His research interests are in computational social science and using data to engage with complex social systems. You can follow him on Twitter @traviskorte.

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