New study offers hope for commuters caught in traffic – Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis

Ioannis Ch. Paschalidis, a former Visiting Professor at MIT Sloan

If you live in Boston, Los Angeles or any other major U.S. city, you know this fact: traffic is a nightmare. Sometimes it seems that traffic is all anyone talks about and each delayed meeting or event begins with a story about how bad it was.

The average commuter in the U.S. spends 42 hours in traffic per year. The cost of commuter delays has risen by 260 percent over the past 25 years and 28 percent of U.S. primary energy is now used in transportation. Road congestion is responsible for about 20% of fuel consumption in urban areas. According to one estimate, the cumulative cost of traffic congestion in the U.S. will reach $2.8 trillion by 2030. At the individual citizen level, traffic congestion cost $1,740 per driver during 2014. If unchecked, this number is expected to grow by more than 60 percent, to $2,900 annually, by 2030.

It’s a problem with a classic common and tragic root.  No individual driver has an incentive to make changes that would make the entire system better.  In other words, each driver seeks to make the best time or take the most convenient route, but no one is in charge of making the system work better as a whole.  As a result, traffic just keeps getting worse.

But technology, which in the form of the automobile gave us this problem, may now offer up the faintest hope of a solution for this problem—that is, the global positioning system, the pervasive use of cell phones, and the advent of the self-driving vehicle could bring new solutions to this seemingly intractable problem. Read More »