In Calculate Blog

Imagine your morning commute without the traffic.

Or rather, the traffic is still there, you just don’t have to stop for it. Sounds pretty good to us!

This is the dream VicRoads has been chasing for the past seven years, using a range of mathematical modeling skills that factor in traffic light frequencies and clearway times, and give priority to tram movements within these environments.

Using maths to model a number of scenarios, VicRoads has been able to assess what happens when a tram is given absolute priority – that is, if all conditions are set to ensure that tram has a clear route for its entire journey.

Professor Jan De Gier and Dr Tim Garoni, the mathematicians leading the project, were inspired by aspects of physics to produce their model. They noticed that aspects of particle flow were actually applicable to traffic flow: “You can view cars and buses and trams on a traffic network as simple particles, so you ignore a lot of the details that are inessential for traffic,” says Prof. De Gier.

“If you model particles flowing through on a graph … and you set up the rules properly, you’ll see that they behave very much like traffic, so they spontaneously form traffic jams, and other things.”

Similar mathematical models are also being used in Germany and Switzerland, as they provide a much cheaper alternative to traditional modeling.

The team also ran a real-world trail in Kew, finding that day-to-day spontaneous and variable occurrences threw somewhat of a spanner in the works, as it made it difficult to assess whether their model was making a significant impact.

The team hope to expand upon their research across multiple suburbs in the future, and monitor how traffic systems evolve over time under the influence of their models. With more time and a bit of mathematical modeling, traffic could soon be a thing of the past for the Melbourne people.

You can read more about the research at ABC.

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