The Simple Solution to Traffic

Stuck at an intersection, you always watch unfold
the Fundamental Problem of Traffic. On green, the first car accelerates, and then the next, and then the next, and then the next, and then you, only to catch the red. Had the cars accelerated simultaneously you would have made it through. Coordination – not cars – is the problem, because we are
monkey drivers with slow reaction times and short attention spans. Even if we tried getting everyone to
press the pedal on 3-2-1-now would be challenging. This dis-coordination limits
how many cars can get through an intersection and when one backs up to the next, that’s when city-sized gridlock cascades
happen, taking forever to clear. In general, more intersections equals more
dis-coordination which equals more traffic. This is the motive behind big highways:
no intersections. Splits and merges, yes. Intersections, no. No stopping, no coordination problems, no traffic Well that’s the theory anyway. Intersections outside of a highway
will back up onto it. Again, because human reaction times
limit how many cars can escape the off-ramp when the light changes. But, even without intersections,
there would still be traffic on the highway. Traffic can just appear. Take a one lane highway with happy cars flowing until a chicken crosses the road. The driver who sees it brakes a little, the driver behind him doesn’t notice immediately
and brakes a little harder than necessary, the driver behind him does the same
until someone comes to a complete stop and, oh look, cars approaching at highway
speeds must now stop as well. Though the chicken is long gone,
it left a phantom intersection on the highway. This is what’s happened when
you’re stuck in traffic for hours thinking, “There must be a deadly pile up ahead”
and then suddenly, the traffic’s over with no wreckage in sight,
to your relief if you’re a good person and mild annoyance if you aren’t. You just pass through a
phantom intersection, the cause of which is long gone. And this phantom intersection moves. It’s really a traffic snake slithering down the road eating oncoming cars at one end
and pooping them out the other. On a ring road, a single car slowing down will start an Ouroboros of traffic that will last forever, even though there’s no problem with the road. If the drivers could coordinate to
accelerate and separate simultaneously, easy driving would return. But they can’t, so traffic eternal. On highways, traffic snakes grow
if cars are eaten faster than excreted, and they shrink if excreted faster than eaten, dying when the last car accelerates away
before the next car must stop. Now, in multi-lane highways,
there needs be no chicken to start gridlock. A driver crossing lanes quickly
with cars too close behind is enough to birth a traffic snake that lives for
hours and leagues. It’s this quick crossing that causes
drivers behind to over-brake and begin a chain reaction. But we *can* make traffic
snakes less likely by changing the way we drive. Your goal as a driver is to
stay the same distance from the car ahead as from the car behind at all times. Tailgating is trouble. Not just because
it makes accidents more likely but because you as the tailgater can start a
traffic snake if the driver ahead brakes. Always in the middle! This gives you the most time
to prevent over-braking but also gives the driver
behind you the most time as well. And when stuck in traffic, this rule would get all cars to pull apart the snake faster. That’s the simple solution to traffic:
getting humans to change their behavior, perhaps by sharing this video to show
how and why traffic happens, why tailgaters are trouble, and how we can work together to make the roads better for all. The End. Except, yeah… wishing upon a star that people are
better than they are is a terrible solution. Every time. Instead, what works is a
structurally systematized solution which is exactly what self-driving cars are. Self-driving cars can just be programmed to stay in the middle and accelerate simultaneously. They’ll just do it. The more self-driving cars at an intersection,
the more efficient the intersection gets. A solid lane of self-driving cars
vastly increases throughput. Hmm, actually! If you ban humans from the road
(which we should totally do anyway) you can get rid of the intersection entirely. After all, a traffic light is just a tool for drivers
on one road to communicate with drivers on another, poorly and coarsely. Red equals “Don’t go now,
we are coming through the intersection.” Green equals “good to go.” But self-driving cars can talk
to each other at the speed of light. with that kind of coordination, no traffic light necessary. Just as with the highway, the best
intersection is no intersection. Humans will never drive this precisely. At the intersection, the fundamental problem with traffic that you watch unfold, as well as everything, is people. So the real simple solution to traffic: is no more monkeys driving cars. This video has been brought to you
in part by, with over 180,000 audiobooks
and spoken audio products. Get a free trial today by going to If you like thinking about how the future can be better, why not read the Elon Musk biography: “Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future”
by Ashlee Vance is available at Audible. Give it a listen with your free 30-day trial that you can
get at Audible is the place I go to for all of my audio books, and you should too. It’s a near endless universe of
interesting things to listen to. Give them a try and thanks to Audible for
supporting the channel.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. The problem with Self-driving cars is its scam to give Google/Government autrocratic control of transportation. They'll shut it off during rush hour and then go for your guns — or just drive you off a clif.

    Self-driving cars are also not even conveinient they have massive computer error flaws when driving off road and there is no utility with them so you cant drive in a certain way or you cant drive towards a certain area without doing some computer bs.

  2. In Ireland were fucked , the amount of idiots on are roads is unbelievable .they give away driving licenses in cornflake boxes …

  3. First, I love your vids. It's so amazing. Second, even with everyone's full coordination, we still can't solve the traffic. We have some public vehicles for example is the bus. The bus would stop in bus stops to drop off passengers or to take them in. With buses stopping at bus stops, snakes will still occur and other vehicles behind it could switch lanes which will add another snake and more traffic that will last countless hours. How about that? Can you solve this kind of problem?

  4. Interesting way of thinking but this kind of solution is not safe at all. And safety should always be priority over speed.

  5. This is only a US problem. Go down to any 3rd world country & you’ll see tailgating is a normal habit, but it all runs like clockwork.

  6. Powinni akcję od 2.20 wyświetlać przed wjazdem na trasę S8 w Warszawie. 3 pasy ruchu i pięknie pokazana w tym filmie przyczyna

  7. My solution… new tail light design… because we still youse a very out dated concept, for which I have a design I have been working on. Thx for the chance to coment.

  8. If the people in the first scenario were accelerating simultaneously, they would become tailgaters to each other at the same time when reaching higher speed…

  9. I think you forgot one teeny tiny detail.
    When you're waiting for green you can be roght behind the car in front of you, no problem. But when you start you HAVE to wait for the car in front of you to get ahead a bit because you can't drive 35mph or 50km/h right behind the car in front.

  10. And then there is Germany, where traffic jams only occur due to roadwork and the government enforcing speed limits.

  11. It's impossible if you think about after the intersection.. if the last keep his speed, the first need To speed up like a seek man

  12. A better solution would be traffic lights that indicate how much time is left before they change color. If each light, rather than being a circle were instead a light bar ( sort of like a thermometer) then a driver could more accurately gauge how much time there is left to make it through the light. This would be very simple to retrofit.

  13. I saw some movie wit Tom Cruise in it and he was a spy or something pretending to be a traffic analyst and he explains the whole "phantom intersection" idea. Tom Cruise was right all along

  14. Before working on traffic issues can we please fix the YouTube recommendation algorithm? Trust me, Internet traffic is in a much worse condition today.

  15. I commented on this video some time ago, and I'll do it again. 3:50 is a recipe for a DISASTER. Anwser me this – can an AI REACT to a CHANGED situation, also, can it react CORRECTLY. All it take is malfunction in ONE car, it takes one distance sensor to be smeared with dirt, and car can't SEE the distance. It will either ram into something, or it will break from loss of "forward control". It takes one error in SOFTWARE to make this WHOLE intersection a mess. With MANY casualties. Drive has two eyes, covers an AREA, rather than controls a single line of a distance detector, and can BREAK THE RULES, should the need arise. More over, with drivers a unified "control scheme" is needed, where it doesn't fall apart when one "unit" fails. If one driver goes at the red light, there will be only as many casualties on the "green lane", and NONE on the "red lane". SHould one AUTOMATED car fail athe intersection there will be casualties for passengers in BOTH lanes.

    I would appreciate if you anwsered and/or pinned the comment. Becuase this blind faith in tech canNOT be GOOD mindset. This video NEEDS to be debunked.

  16. Good point, but the solution is computer-controlled variable speed limits. The reason traffic bunches up is because cars drive too fast in clear roads, meaning when there's any slowdown, they all block up at once. Reducing the speed limit smooths out traffic flow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment