Jack Uldrich
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Unlearning Your Daily Commute

Posted in Algorithms, Automobile, Current Affairs, General, Politics, Travel, Web 2.0

BostontrafficI live in a major metropolitan area and the traffic situation drives me crazy. If someone then told me that they were going to close a road in order to reduce traffic congestion, I’d likely think they were either crazy or stupid. As I mention in my book, Jump the Curve, emerging technologies can, however, often throw people—myself included—for a loop. This story is a perfect case-in-point.

One would think that perfect information on traffic conditions would lead to an optimization of people’s personal travel time. Alas, this is not always the case. In fact, people’s commutes in major cities such as Boston, London and New York can be reduced by 30%, 24% and 28% by selecting the “social optimum” choice instead of the "personally optimum" choice. And, if people are reluctant to unlearn this finding because it defies conventional wisdom, local governments or traffic departments can always choose to close a road or two and force them into a better (i.e. faster) choice . Of course such a scenario smacks of Big Brother-like socialism and makes the civil libertarian in me cringe, but if you read the article you’ll at least understand the logic behind the idea.


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