Obscuring digital route-choice information prevents delay-induced congestion

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Although routing applications increasingly affect individual mobility choices, their impact on collective traffic dynamics remains largely unknown. Smart communication technologies provide accurate traffic data for choosing one route over other alternatives; yet, inherent delays undermine the potential usefulness of such information. Here, we introduce and analyze a simple model of collective traffic dynamics, which results from route choice relying on outdated traffic information. We find for sufficiently small information delays that traffic flows are stable against perturbations. However, delays beyond a bifurcation point induce self-organized flow oscillations of increasing amplitude - congestion arises. Providing delayed information averaged over sufficiently long periods of time or, more intriguingly, reducing the number of vehicles adhering to the route recommendations may prevent such delay-induced congestion. We reveal the fundamental mechanisms underlying these phenomena in a minimal two-road model and demonstrate their generality in microscopic, agent-based simulations of a road network system. Our findings provide a way to conceptually understand system-wide traffic dynamics caused by broadly used non-instantaneous routing information and suggest how resulting unintended collective traffic states could be avoided.


Original languageEnglish
Article number113120
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

External IDs

PubMed 34881604
ORCID /0000-0002-5956-3137/work/142242396