Can we change ‘selfish routing’ behavior by giving users more information?

06 October 2011

Road traffic congestion is a common problem in most developed and developing countries. Due to the explosion of internet use all over the world, we now also have the problem of cyberspace congestion.

The Royal Society of New Zealand recently awarded a $465,000 grant to Dr Ilze Ziedins’ of the Department of Statistics, The University of Auckland to investigate whether 'selfish routing' behaviour by users could be reduced by providing more detailed, accurate information about a network to users.

'Selfish routing' is a term coined by statisticians to describe users that choose routes, whether on roads or in cyberspace, without thinking of others, resulting in long queues.

Together with Dr Mark Holmes, also from the Department of Statistics of Auckland University, they intend to follow up on the results of a smaller study that discovered that when road users were provided with more information about a particular network before joining it, the traffic distribution improved.

Dr Ilze believes that building more roads will only worsen the congestion problem. "This is the paradox they found in Stuttgart, for example. They ended up closing roads because traffic flow had become so bad after adding capacity. After closing roads, traffic improved."

To read more about Dr Ilze Ziedin’s research, please click here to go to the NZ Herald online website.