Understanding traffic disruptions caused by communication network failures through survey and simulation

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Hoang, Trinh Ngoc Phuong

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Smartphone navigation applications providing real-time traffic information have become increasingly popular among drivers. Research showed that drivers' cognitive abilities for spatial navigation would deteriorate with frequent use of such applications, which eventually leads to drivers becoming unable to navigate without the applications' assistance. Unfortunately, the potential risks of disruptions to such navigation assistances due to communication network failures in the wake of unexpected events have not received considerable attention so far. The failures of navigation systems coupled with inadequate navigating cognition among drivers can potentially induce abrupt driver reactions, causing temporary disruptions in the urban traffic networks. Transportation research literature has yet to explore how drivers respond to failures of the navigation assistances when driving. Keeping focus on the above gap in the literature, this thesis explores the local- and network-level effects of such short-term disruptions by simulating the driver behavior during abrupt communications blackouts. In the first stage of the study, a survey is developed to collect drivers' stated preferences for actions to be taken under multiple scenarios related to failures with navigation applications. In the second stage, an agent-based modeling framework is proposed to simulate the effects of communication disruptions on the traffic network using the survey findings as the input. Then, a case study is conducted by applying the framework to a hypothetical scenario in the Austin downtown traffic network. Results from the case study reveal that network-wide traffic disruptions caused by systemic failures using the navigation systems are unpredictable and can become significant in several cases.


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