University of Minnesota Driven to Discover
U of MNUniversity of Minnesota
Center for Transportation Studies

The less-than-perfect driver: a new model of car-following behavior

Imagine a world where drivers don’t make mistakes. Everyone pays perfect attention to the movements of cars around them, and no one takes unnecessary risks like following too closely behind another vehicle. There are no distractions like cellular phone calls, too-hot cups of coffee, or annoying songs on the radio. In this world, it goes almost without saying that the smooth flow of traffic is not disrupted by vehicle crashes.

This utopian world really exists—at least in research labs where computer simulations model the movements of virtual vehicles. As the computing power required to simulate hundreds or even thousands of vehicles has become available in personal computers, such simulations have emerged as invaluable tools for understanding the effects of new traffic control systems and management technologies.

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