## Mathematical Theorem Suggests Humans Really Are Sheep

As any Traffic reader knows I have a jones for “collective animal mobility.” I recently across an interesting paper, “Traffic and the visual perception of space,” by Petr Šeba, a physicist with the University of Hradec Králové in the Czech Republic.

As he notes:

During the attempt to line up into a dense traffic people have necessarily to share a limited space under turbulent conditions. From the statistical point view it generally leads to a probability distribution of the distances between the traffic objects (cars or pedestrians). But the problem is not restricted on humans. It comes up again when we try to describe the statistics of distances between perching birds or moving sheep herd. Our aim is to demonstrate that the spacing distribution is generic and independent on the nature of the object considered. We show that this fact is based on the unconscious perception of space that people share with the animals.

Here’s how it was done:

In order to verify this hypothesis we organized a simple experiment with pedestrians in a narrow corridor. Using two light gates we measured their velocity and the time interval that elapsed between two subsequent walkers. This enables us to reconstruct the mutual distances and evaluate the distance probability density. The same device and method was used also for a sheep herd moving through an aisle between two near yards. The third source of data are cars moving on a highway in a dense traffic. The velocity and time stamps of the individual cars were obtained by induction loops placed below the roadway.

The probability distribution of distances between objects in all these cases was essentially the same (suggesting, according to the author, a universal mechanism for estimating time-to-collision and its avoidance). Something to consider in those long holiday security lines at the airport.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 at 8:11 am and is filed under Traffic Wonkery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.

May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
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June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana

June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
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July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Phoenix, AZ.

August 12-14
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
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September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
Savannah, Georgia

September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
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Honda R&D Americas
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INFORMS Roundtable
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California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
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Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
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Texas Transportation Forum
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January 19
Yale University
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Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture

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University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation

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Salt Lake City
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International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
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Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference

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Niagara Falls, Ontario

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Fondo de Prevención Vial
Bogotá, Colombia

Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Perth, Australia

Wednesday, September 1
Canberra, Australia

Wednesday, September 22

Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
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Statewide Conference
Wisconsin Dells, WI

Wednesday, October 20
Rutgers University
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Piscataway, NJ

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Toronto

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Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Boise, Idaho

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California Association of Cities
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American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi

April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
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April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
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Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
Melbourne, Australia

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University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
Minneapolis, MN

January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

February 22, 2013
ISL Engineering

March 1, 2013
Melbourne, Australia

May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
Transportation Engineers
Rochester, NY

August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA

September 26, 2013
TransComm 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Communications.
Grand Rapids MI

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