Dynamics of traffic jams

Traffic in India is very different from that in less-populated and affluent countries. Its high density and heterogeneous nature (mix of scooters, cars, buses and trucks) makes understanding Indian traffic a challenge, one that cannot be met by using existing models that were developed for other countries with more regular traffic flows. With the number of vehicles on our roads increasing each year, it is important to understand the fundamentals of Indian traffic flow in order to engineer solutions to problems like traffic congestion that plague our major cities.

One of the fundamental features of traffic on highways is the emergence of spontaneous traffic jams, which occur even when the total number of vehicles is much less than the maximum load that a road can take. These waves have been understood using relatively simple mathematical models (based on a fluid-dynamics like PDE description), but only under restrictive assumptions that certainly do not apply to India (for example: assuming identical vehicles that drive in a clearly defined lane). This project aims to develop and analyze new models to understand how the unique features of Indian traffic change the nature of traffic jams. The final goal is to identify strategies to reduce the time and extent of such jams.

Collaborators: Danny Raj (Danny Raj, IISc, Bangalore).

Name of Faculty