Intelligent Cruise Control Systems and Traffic Flow Behavior Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract In analogy to the flow of fluids, it is expected that the aggregate density and the velocity of vehicles in a section of a freeway adequately describe the traffic flow dynamics. The conservation of mass equation together with the aggregation of the vehicle following dynamics of controlled vehicles describes the evolution of the traffic density and the aggregate speed of a traffic flow. There are two kinds of stability associated with traffic flow problems string stability (or car-following stability) and traffic flow stability. We make a clear distinction between traffic flow stability and string stability, and such a distinction has not been recognized in the literature, thus far. String stability is stability with respect to intervehicular spacing; intuitively, it ensures the knowledge of the position and velocity of every vehicle in the traffic, within reasonable bounds of error, from the knowledge of the position and velocity of a vehicle in the traffic. String stability is analyzed without adding vehicles to or removing vehicles from the traffic. On the other hand, traffic flow stability deals with the evolution of traffic velocity and density in response to the addition and/or removal of vehicles from the flow. Traffic flow stability can be guaranteed only if the velocity and density solutions of the coupled set of equations is stable, i.e., only if stability with respect to automatic vehicle following and stability with respect to density evolution is guaranteed. Therefore, the flow stability and critical capacity of any section of a highway is dependent not only on the vehicle following control laws and the information used in their synthesis, but also on the spacing policy employed by the control system. Such a dependence has practical consequences in the choice of a spacing policy for adaptive cruise control laws and on the stability of the traffic flow consisting of vehicles equipped with adaptive cruise control features on the existing and future highways. This critical dependence is the subject of investigation in this paper. This problem is analyzed in two steps: The first step is to understand the effect of spacing policy employed by the Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) systems on traffic flow stability. The second step is to understand how the dynamics of ICC system affects traffic flow stability. Using such an analysis, it is shown that cruise control systems that employ a constant time headway policy lead to unacceptable characteristics for the traffic flows.

published proceedings

  • Dynamic Systems and Control

author list (cited authors)

  • Swaroop, D., & Rajagopal, K. R.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Swaroop, Darbha||Rajagopal, KR

publication date

  • November 1999