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Do new sources of traffic data make the application of Chaos Theory to traffic management a realistic possibility?

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Current signal systems for managing road traffic in many urban areas around the world lack a coordinated approach to detecting the spatial and temporal evolution of congestion across control regions within city networks. This severely inhibits these systems’ ability to detect reliably, on a strategic level, the onset of congestion and implement effective preventative action. As traffic is a time-dependent and non-linear system, Chaos Theory is a prime candidate for application to Urban Traffic Control (UTC) to improve congestion and pollution management. Previous applications have been restricted to relatively uncomplicated motorway and inter-urban networks, arguably where the associated problems of congestion and vehicle emissions are less severe, due to a general unavailability of high-resolution temporal and spatial data that preserve the variability in short-term traffic patterns required for Chaos Theory to work to its full potential. This paper argues that this restriction can now be overcome due to the emergence of new sources of high-resolution data and large data storage capabilities. Consequently, this opens up the real possibility for a new generation of UTC systems that are better able to detect the dynamic states of traffic and therefore more effectively prevent the onset of traffic congestion in urban areas worldwide.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Transport Operations Research Group, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Publication date: September 2, 2016

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