If mathematicians addressed traffic problems

How would mathematicians solve traffic? Here are the suggestions from a 2020 book:

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All drivers need to be on the same navigation system. Cars can only be efficiently rerouted if instructions come from one center hub. One navigation system rerouting some drivers does not solve traffic jams.

Parking bans. Many urban roads are too narrow and cannot be physically widened. Traffic-flow models can indicate where parking spots should be turned into lanes.

Green lanes. For cities that want to increase electric car use, special lanes should be created for electric cars, providing an incentive for their use.

Digital twins. Traffic demands and available infrastructure can only be balanced with digital modeling that creates an entire “twin” of existing roadways. The software will be “an extremely useful thought tool in the hands of transport engineers.”

I have not read the book and this description is not long but it seems to depend on both understanding current and possible traffic flows through modeling. Often, Americans typically get more lanes added to roads – which then tend to fill up because there is more capacity and/or populations continue to grow.

I wonder how modeling would fit with other values underlying road and traffic decisions. A few examples:

  1. It might be better to have a centralized traffic and navigation hub. Is this technically feasible, would all car makers want to participate, and would there be privacy concerns?
  2. The politics of providing special lanes, whether for electric cars or high occupancy vehicles or bicycles, can get interesting. Americans often think the roadway should be for all users as opposed to particular users.
  3. The road system we have is the result of not just prioritizing efficiency but a whole host of actors and forces that includes privileging single-family homes (and generally keeping them away from busy roads) and highways in and out of major cities.

If you want to model the world, look into these online databases

MIT’s Technology Review lists 70 online databases that one could look into in order to model our complex world.

Having used several of the social sciences databases listed here, I am impressed with several features of such databases:

1. The variety of data one can quickly find. (There is a lot of data being collected in the world today.)

2. The openness of this data to users rather than being restricted just to the people who collected the data.

3. The growing ability to do a quick analysis within the database websites.

To me, this is one of the primary functions of the Internet: making good data (information) on all sorts of subjects available to a wide cross-section of users.

Now, with all of this data out there and available, can we do complex modeling of all of social life or natural life or Earthly life? Helbing’s Earth Simulator, mentioned in this story, sounds interesting…