Can Waze CAUSE Traffic Jams?



Can Waze CAUSE Traffic Jams?



I HATE traffic reports.


To me, traffic reports are a complete waste of time. It doesn't matter whether it's on the radio, a GPS, or a mobile App like Waze. They simply don't save me any time when deciding whether to take an alternate route. If anything, they can make it worse.

I'll admit the concept is absolutely brilliant, but most of the time the information is too late to be useful and only serves to move a traffic jam from one place to another. When that happens, chances are you'll still end up in traffic, albeit in a new place.

If you came to a fork in the road where going right or left will take you the same place, in the same amount in time, but found out that there was a 30 minute traffic jam on the left side, what would you do? Assuming you were the only person with this "inside" information, you'd probably go right. However, if nearly 100% of the cars on the road got the same news from an App, chances are, making that right turn may not be such a great idea after all.

To visual this, let's assume that instead of using Waze or a radio traffic report, there was a sign that told you there was a 30 minute delay by going left. If every driver can see this sign, what would you do then? Think about it. This means that 100% of the next few thousand cars will probably use the alternate (faster) route. Wouldn't that mean the original traffic delayed route will now have fewer cars? Based on that, some people will intentionally ignore the sign and take the slower route. If enough people do that, it could balance out, but either way, information about the traffic will serve to influence it as a direct correlation to the number of people who hear about the traffic delay.

That's the problem with Waze, and most traffic reports. As the number of people using them to make travel decisions increases, the more they influence the traffic itself. It's like virtual cattle herding, as swarms of cars move away from one traffic jam, and create a brand new one. The only the information can be useful is for fewer people to use it.

It's an inevitable side effect of the technology, and human nature in general. On the bright side, as self-driving cars come out, "Big Brother" will route traffic in real time, sending equal numbers of cars in each direction, without emotional influence.



, Founder

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