Keeping an equal distance between you and the car in front & behind could help eliminate queues


According to a new study, tailgating could be the reason for traffic jams in the UK, so it seems as though drivers themselves are the real reason why we’re all left sitting in queues day after day.

By keeping an equal distance between you and the car in front and behind could help eliminate queues.

Tailgating has in the past been described by many motorists as their biggest gripe and one of the worst bad driving habits on the road today, followed closely by lane-hoggers.

The experts believe that if drivers could use their cruise control technology available to them to look forwards as well as backwards on the roads, commuters would get to their destination twice as fast.

By keeping an equal distance between you and the car in front & behind could help eliminate queues

Scientists suggest tailgating could be the reason for traffic jams © Copyright N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Research gathered by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), suggests that if all drivers remained roughy half way between the car in front and behind, the flow of traffic would be more constant.

Current automated cruise control enables the driver to measure the distance to the vehicle in front allowing them to remain at a constant safe distance. However, if sensors were added to both the front and rear bumpers a huge difference could be gained in commuter time.

The experts believe that as a result traffic would run more smoothy, even if just a small fraction of all the cars on the road had such a system fitted to them.

“We humans tend to view the world in terms of what’s ahead of us, both literally and conceptually, so it might seem counter-intuitive to look backwards,” said MIT professor Berthold Horn, co-author of a study with Dr Liang Wang.

According to the professor, driving in this way could go a long way to reducing travel time and fuel consumption without the need to build more roads or change any of the current infrastructure.

“Our work shows that, if drivers all keep an equal distance between the cars on either side of them, such “perturbations” would disappear as they travel down a line of traffic, rather than amplify to create a traffic jam,” added Mr Horn.

So called phantom traffic jams often occur for no apparent reason but could be down to individual cars changing speeds, leading to some kind of knock-on effect.

It’s been proven in the past that sudden changes in speed, such as braking sharply, have resulted in traffic jams and delays for motorists.

For inspiration in how to resolve the issue of bunching up on roads, the study team looked at the starling. When a starling murmuration made up of thousands of birds takes to the sky, they move and flow in perfect unison, only inches apart from each other, yet they fly through the sky as one fluid body.

They use three zones, 360 degrees around them to make sure they’re all lined up correctly.


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