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The University of Southampton
EngineeringPostgraduate study

CMEES-TRANS-01 PhD/EngD Studentship:Complex Microsimulation and Control of Network Traffic Flows

Network traffic flow is a vast multiplayer game where each "agent" (driver) tries to minimise his/her "cost" (travel time) by experimenting with different routes, times of departure etc. The resulting pattern of traffic flows is known as "user equilibrium". At the system level, the "network operator" (the government) implements "controls" (traffic light settings, congestion charges etc.) to maximise the flow of traffic - as well as reduce emissions, improve safety etc. - the overall research question is how to design such controls so that the drivers, in executing their individual free will, achieve the system objectives.

Our methodology is to examine and design "controls" using analytical and computer (microsimulation) modelling techniques. However, there are two grand challenges to be addressed:

1. We don't have a very good understanding of individual driver behaviour and psychology - so the computer models are necessarily flawed - however, new technologies potentially provide (e.g. smartphone positioning) data to fix this - but there remains a huge problem in how to fuse the new data and fit microsimulation models from it.

2. The emergent "macroscopic" (large-scale) dynamics of such traffic networks can be very surprising and counter-intuitive. For example - we have the Braess paradox where network "improvements" can increase congestion - or the famous "phantom jams" on motorways which grow from tiny fluctuations in otherwise smooth traffic flow. There is an urgent need to develop our understanding of these "macroscopic" effects - at present it is not clear even how to "coarse grain" complex network simulations to develop a robust set of macroscopic variables.

There is scope for several PhD research programmes to be refined from these themes - and the intention is that students will enroll with the  4-year PhD programme organised by the Insitute for Complex Systems Simulation - see http://www.icss.soton.ac.uk/programme/index.html

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof. R. Eddie Wilson, Transportation Research Group,

Email: R.E.Wilson@soton.ac.uk , Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 2174.

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