The science of traffic jams

Neat video:

No doubt they form passively and no individual in them has an incentive to take action to un-form them, but I think this article misses a key factor. Driver training would have a huge effect on preventing traffic jams.

Though drivers usually seek to undertake trips in the least time possible, a driver can take many kinds of action; I'd group these as: irrational; short-sighted; far-sighted; and, altruistic.

An irrational act would be tailgating to prevent a driver on an on-ramp from merging in front of one's car. Short-sighted would be driving to the very end of an on-ramp to obtain a slightly better position in the lane of traffic. Far-sighted would be changing lanes well in advance of an on-ramp because one can foresee congestion. Altruistic would be allowing a large gap to form in front of one's car when traffic is merging into one's lane.

If most drivers acted with more foresight or altruism, highways would go faster and all drivers would benefit. However, people are irrational and, perhaps, when a small number of drivers are altruistic, a number at least equal to that can take advantage of them and believe they are benefiting personally, while also causing the entire system to be less efficient.

For this reason, I think a culture shift would have a large effect on the entire system's efficiency.

Pedestrians rarely walk with pure selfishness; they commonly smile and engage others as people, make room on the sidewalk, hold the door, stand on the right side of the escalator, let people of the subway before entering, etc. Not everyone does this, but the majority do and it's part of the culture to do these things. People have been pedestrians for millennia, and it seems obvious that norms would exist governing something as common as walking in public.

Such norms were never brought about formally for drivers.

I think a more intensive driver training focused on shifting drivers to have more foresight and to adopt some of the norms of pedestrian life (seeing others as people not vehicles) would achieve a lot. Perhaps it begins with new drivers and the benefits would gradually take hold.