Europhys. Lett.
Volume 47, Number 2, July 1999
Page(s) 196 - 202
Section Electromagnetism, optics, acoustics, heat transfer, classical mechanics, and fluid dynamics
Published online 01 September 2002
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i1999-00372-y

Europhys. Lett, 47 (2), pp. 196-202 (1999)

Economics-based optimization of unstable flows

B. A. Huberman 1 and D. Helbing 2

1 Xerox PARC - 3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA
2 II. Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Stuttgart
Pfaffenwaldring 57/III, 70550 Stuttgart, Germany

(received 28 January 1999; accepted in final form 17 May 1999)

PACS. 47.62+q - Flow control.
PACS. 47.54+r - Pattern selection; pattern formation.
PACS. 89.40+k - Transportation.


As an example for the optimization of unstable flows, we present an economics-based method for deciding the optimal rates at which vehicles are allowed to enter a highway. It exploits the naturally occurring fluctuations of traffic flow and is flexible enough to adapt in real time to the transient flow characteristics of road traffic. Simulations based on realistic parameter values show that this strategy is feasible for naturally occurring traffic, and that even far from optimality, injection policies can improve traffic flow. Moreover, the same method can be applied to the optimization of flows of gases and granular media.


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