Traffic Basic

Traffic Basic preview image

1 collaborator

Uri_dolphin3 Uri Wilensky (Author)


social science 

Tagged by Reuven M. Lerner over 9 years ago

Model group CCL | Visible to everyone | Changeable by group members (CCL)
Model was written in NetLogo 5.0.4 • Viewed 751 times • Downloaded 36 times • Run 5 times
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This model models the movement of cars on a highway. Each car follows a simple set of rules: it slows down (decelerates) if it sees a car close ahead, and speeds up (accelerates) if it doesn't see a car ahead.

The model demonstrates how traffic jams can form even without any accidents, broken bridges, or overturned trucks. No "centralized cause" is needed for a traffic jam to form.


Click on the SETUP button to set up the cars. Set the NUMBER slider to change the number of cars on the road.

Click on DRIVE to start the cars moving. Note that they wrap around the world as they move, so the road is like a continuous loop.

The ACCELERATION slider controls the rate at which cars accelerate (speed up) when there are no cars ahead.

When a car sees another car right in front, it matches that car's speed and then slows down a bit more. How much slower it goes than the car in front of it is controlled by the DECELERATION slider.


Traffic jams can start from small "seeds." These cars start with random positions and random speeds. If some cars are clustered together, they will move slowly, causing cars behind them to slow down, and a traffic jam forms.

Even though all of the cars are moving forward, the traffic jams tend to move backwards. This behavior is common in wave phenomena: the behavior of the group is often very different from the behavior of the individuals that make up the group.

The plot shows three values as the model runs:

  • the fastest speed of any car (this doesn't exceed the speed limit!)
  • the slowest speed of any car
  • the speed of a single car (turtle 0), painted red so it can be watched.

Notice not only the maximum and minimum, but also the variability -- the "jerkiness" of one vehicle.

Notice that the default settings have cars decelerating much faster than they accelerate. This is typical of traffic flow models.

Even though both ACCELERATION and DECELERATION are very small, the cars can achieve high speeds as these values are added or subtracted at each tick.


In this model there are three variables that can affect the tendency to create traffic jams: the initial NUMBER of cars, ACCELERATION, and DECELERATION. Look for patterns in how the three settings affect the traffic flow. Which variable has the greatest effect? Do the patterns make sense? Do they seem to be consistent with your driving experiences?

Set DECELERATION to zero. What happens to the flow? Gradually increase DECELERATION while the model runs. At what point does the flow "break down"?


Try other rules for speeding up and slowing down. Is the rule presented here realistic? Are there other rules that are more accurate or represent better driving strategies?

In reality, different vehicles may follow different rules. Try giving different rules or ACCELERATION/DECELERATION values to some of the cars. Can one bad driver mess things up?

The asymmetry between acceleration and deceleration is a simplified representation of different driving habits and response times. Can you explicitly encode these into the model?

What could you change to minimize the chances of traffic jams forming?

What could you change to make traffic jams move forward rather than backward?

Make a model of two-lane traffic.


The plot shows both global values and the value for a single turtle, which helps one watch overall patterns and individual behavior at the same time.

The watch command is used to make it easier to focus on the red car.


"Traffic Grid" adds a street grid with stoplights at the intersections.

"Gridlock" (a HubNet model) is a participatory simulation version of Traffic Grid


If you mention this model in a publication, we ask that you include these citations for the model itself and for the NetLogo software:

  • Wilensky, U. (1997). NetLogo Traffic Basic model. Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.
  • Wilensky, U. (1999). NetLogo. Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.


Copyright 1997 Uri Wilensky.


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

Commercial licenses are also available. To inquire about commercial licenses, please contact Uri Wilensky at

This model was created as part of the project: CONNECTED MATHEMATICS: MAKING SENSE OF COMPLEX PHENOMENA THROUGH BUILDING OBJECT-BASED PARALLEL MODELS (OBPML). The project gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation (Applications of Advanced Technologies Program) -- grant numbers RED #9552950 and REC #9632612.

This model was developed at the MIT Media Lab using CM StarLogo. See Resnick, M. (1994) "Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds." Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Adapted to StarLogoT, 1997, as part of the Connected Mathematics Project.

This model was converted to NetLogo as part of the projects: PARTICIPATORY SIMULATIONS: NETWORK-BASED DESIGN FOR SYSTEMS LEARNING IN CLASSROOMS and/or INTEGRATED SIMULATION AND MODELING ENVIRONMENT. The project gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation (REPP & ROLE programs) -- grant numbers REC #9814682 and REC-0126227. Converted from StarLogoT to NetLogo, 2001.

Comments and Questions


a a

need help (Question)

please, can i get any paper or references about this model

Posted about 7 years ago

Click to Run Model

globals [ sample-car ]
turtles-own [ speed speed-limit speed-min ]

to setup
  ask patches [ setup-road ]
  watch sample-car

to setup-road  ;; patch procedure
  if (pycor < 2) and (pycor > -2) [ set pcolor white ]

to setup-cars
  if number-of-cars > world-width
    user-message (word "There are too many cars for the amount of road.  Please decrease the NUMBER-OF-CARS slider to below "
                       (world-width + 1)
                       " and press the SETUP button again.  The setup has stopped.")

  set-default-shape turtles "car"
  crt number-of-cars [
    set color blue
    set xcor random-xcor
    set heading  90
    ;;; set initial speed to be in range 0.1 to 1.0
    set speed  0.1 + random-float .9
    set speed-limit  1
    set speed-min  0
  set sample-car one-of turtles
  ask sample-car [ set color red ]

; this procedure is needed so when we click "Setup" we
; don't end up with any two cars on the same patch

to separate-cars  ;; turtle procedure
  if any? other turtles-here
    [ fd 1
      separate-cars ]

to go
   ;; if there is a car right ahead of you, match its speed then slow down
  ask turtles [
    let car-ahead one-of turtles-on patch-ahead 1
    ifelse car-ahead != nobody
      [ set speed [speed] of car-ahead
        slow-down-car ]
      ;; otherwise, speed up
      [ speed-up-car ]
    ;;; don't slow down below speed minimum or speed up beyond speed limit
    if speed < speed-min  [ set speed speed-min ]
    if speed > speed-limit   [ set speed speed-limit ]
    fd speed ]

to slow-down-car  ;; turtle procedure
  set speed speed - deceleration

to speed-up-car  ;; turtle procedure
  set speed speed + acceleration

; Copyright 1997 Uri Wilensky.
; See Info tab for full copyright and license.

There are 10 versions of this model.

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Uri Wilensky over 9 years ago Updated to NetLogo 5.0.4 Download this version
Uri Wilensky about 10 years ago Updated version tag Download this version
Uri Wilensky over 10 years ago Updated to version from NetLogo 5.0.3 distribution Download this version
Uri Wilensky about 11 years ago Updated to NetLogo 5.0 Download this version
Uri Wilensky over 12 years ago Updated from NetLogo 4.1 Download this version
Uri Wilensky over 12 years ago Updated from NetLogo 4.1 Download this version
Uri Wilensky over 12 years ago Updated from NetLogo 4.1 Download this version
Uri Wilensky over 12 years ago Updated from NetLogo 4.1 Download this version
Uri Wilensky over 12 years ago Model from NetLogo distribution Download this version
Uri Wilensky over 12 years ago Traffic Basic Download this version

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