Self-Organizing Urban Transportation Systems

  • Carlos GershensonEmail author


Urban transportation is a complex phenomenon. Many agents are constantly interacting in parallel, so it is difficult to predict the future state of a transportation system. Because of this, optimization techniques tend to give obsolete solutions, as the problem changes before it can be optimized. An alternative lies in seeking adaptive solutions. This adaptation can be achieved with self-organization. In a self-organizing transportation system, the elements of the system follow local rules to achieve a global solution. In this way, when the problem changes the system can adapt by itself to the new configuration.

In this chapter, I review recent, current, and future work on self-organizing transportation systems. Self-organizing traffic lights have proven to improve traffic flow considerably compared to traditional methods. In public transportation systems, simple rules have been explored to prevent the “equal headway instability” phenomenon. The methods we have used can be also applied to other urban transportation systems and their generality is discussed.


Adaptation Complexity Self-organization Transportation 



I would like to thank Juval Portugali and his team for organizing the conference “Complexity Theories of Cities have come of Age”. Ideas on self-organization have been developed in collaboration with Francis Heylighen. Work on self-organizing traffic lights has been performed in collaboration with Seung Bae Cools, Bart D’Hooghe, Justin Werfel, Yaneer Bar-Yam, and David Rosenblueth. Work on the equal headway instability phenomenon has been made in collaboration with Luis A. Pineda.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones en Matemáticas Aplicadas y en SistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad UniversitariaMéxicoD.F. México

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