On the reproducibility of spatiotemporal traffic dynamics with microscopic traffic models

In: Journal of statistical mechanics: theory and experiment, Jg. 10 (2012), P10018
ISSN: 1742-5468
Zeitschriftenaufsatz / Fach: Physik
Fakultät für Physik » Theoretische Physik
Traffic flow is a very prominent example of a driven non-equilibrium system. A characteristic phenomenon of traffic dynamics is the spontaneous and abrupt drop of the average velocity on a stretch of road leading to congestion. Such a traffic breakdown corresponds to a boundary-induced phase transition from free flow to congested traffic. In this paper, we study the ability of selected microscopic traffic models to reproduce a traffic breakdown, and we investigate its spatiotemporal dynamics. For our analysis, we use empirical traffic data from stationary loop detectors on a German Autobahn showing a spontaneous breakdown. We then present several methods to assess the results and compare the models with each other. In addition, we will also discuss some important modeling aspects and their impact on the resulting spatiotemporal pattern. The investigation of different downstream boundary conditions, for example, shows that the physical origin of the traffic breakdown may be artificially induced by the setup of the boundaries.