Monday, September 12, 2011

Solution to traffic woes - Game Theory

An old thought gets its due today -

I have wasted numerous potentially productive hours stuck in the pathetic Hyderabad traffic.Traffic congestion, caused by several players trying to achieve a common (?) goal while they make choices that potentially effect the interests of the other players. This is a classic case of game theory problem. Yes, the same theory that John Nash proposed in a bar!
When in a perfect competition, a player must do what is beneficial not just for him but also for the group. Game theory has been applied to politics, wars, marketing and even biology. I think it should even be applied to traffic situations like roundabouts, traffic lights etc. This will lead to a simplified study of what causes these congestions and how to avoid them. Individual players should be forced to make choices that are beneficial to the group.
Having said that, there are two princiapls that are outside the purview of game theory and are imperative for solving traffic issues -
  1. Enforcement - possibly today's traffic rules are an outcome of game theory analysis. But, the enforcement of these riles leaves a lot to be desired.
  2. self discipline - no or minimum enforcement mechanism will be needed if the players (commuters) show some discipline.
Possibly we need to remind everyone of the story of two wise goats we heard when we were kids.