Underactuated Control of Vehicular Traffic

When self-driving robotic cars begin to share the road with regular cars, could we control the robotic cars to smooth out traffic jams? I did a numerical and theoretical study of vehicle traffic dynamics and control policies that smooth traffic even when controlling only a fraction of the vehicles.

I’ll write more on this later, but for now, here’s the paper, the abstract, and below that, a pretty picture of the spatiotemporal dynamics of traffic jam formation. You can also find the code here

Abstract We propose and study two control policies for the optimal velocity traffic model [1] in which only an active subset of cars are actuated. We obtain sufficient conditions for the stability of the actuated dynamics and prove that in certain cases an unstable unactuated system can be stabilized. Through numerical experiments, we show that both controllers have a significant stabilizing effect. In particular, we study the number of active cars necessary to stabilize the dynamics, as well as the asymptotic convergence rate of each controller. We show that one controller is better when the unactuated dynamics are close to stable and the other is better when the unactuated dynamics are far from stable.

Spatiotemporal diagram of traffic formation for cars on a circular road. x-axis is position, and y-axis is time.

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