The Endless Battle on the Road
Many ideas students have are not taken seriously. But during this TEDx talk by Wilson Jusuf I saw just how far a great problem and a potential solution could arouse such attention from respected adults and professionals in that field. Seeing his success, even though his plan failed, inspired me to try out new things.
As most Indonesian citizens (especially those that live in big cities such as Jakarta) know how frustrating traffic can be. However, no one has yet to find an adequate solution to fixing traffic issues in Jakarta. Intuition would tell you “Reduce the amount of vehicles on the road” but sadly that’s not how the free market works and with this high of a population in the capital of the archipelago, it would cause more issues than it would solve.
So why exactly is there so much traffic in Jakarta? Well, Wilson gave us some statistics: The average driver stops and starts 108 times per day (from when the vehicle loses all motion to when it begins to increase in speed again) and asked the audience “Why?”. Using the scientific method, some mathematical formulas and models he realised, with his partner, that the act of stopping behind a car slowing down would decrease the overall speed of the drivers behind and cause a similar movement to that of a caterpillar. A driver would react to an issue with a sense perception different than the driver in front, the first would slow down while the second would slow down at the same time but resume driving after. He attempted to figure out a mathematical model to prove that this theory was taking place and to seek a solution.
And this is where my question comes in “To what extent can Mathematical models alone apply to real life scenarios involving other Areas of Knowledge?”. In this scenario, the rate at which cars slow down and start again (increasing as more cars go through the process) can be calculated using mathematics. However, in this world, not all cars are the same, not all drivers are the same and not everybody has the same agenda. People who a busier tend to… work around issues instead of facing them. Let’s say someone uses the emergency lane instead of just blindly following traffic or a truck decides to take a turn to avoid the traffic but gets stuck in the process or what if a car just broke down. There are way too many variables for the formula to actually give out reliable results.
To keep the model as accurate as possible a lot of Human Sciences concepts need to be taken into account. For example, Human biology could change the way a driver takes on the situation if the weather is hot then the driver could want to rush home to cool down and this will make his/her driving more aggressive, Economics could give some insight into the average income in that area and show that perhaps drivers followed the rules more in certain areas than others and vehicles would be different. The list could go on forever but this goes to show that mathematics alone isn’t enough to understand a situation that involves many human sciences concepts. But Wilson understood that!
He thought of implementing a system that could make the traffic flow better and reduce the impact of the human sciences factors I mentioned. He wanted to see how the green wave system could be applied to the Jakarta scenario. The way the system works is that traffic lights will be adjusted to let cars flow through the street in batches without ever coming to a stop, the light would always turn to green as the car reached the next traffic light. This system involved drones or cameras that could detect when cars would come close to the traffic light and change the light to allow them to continue. Then computer scientists would use their area of knowledge to calculate the average time it would take for cars to get from one traffic light to another.
His idea was so well thought out (and is one commonly used in countries such as Switzerland) that he was able to get a meeting with the governor of Indonesia himself who congratulated him on his research and will to make his country a better place. However, it would require Indonesia to improve its technology and have a immense funding behind the project which was not possible at that time. This comes to prove that mathematics cannot solve real life problems when factors such as economic and development studies concepts affect the issue.
His imagination of how to apply his method was not realistic in that scenario, not all ways of knowing end up giving immediate positive results.
The Endless Battle on the Road