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Workshop: NeurIPS 2023 Workshop on Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning: Blending New and Existing Knowledge Systems

Data-Driven Traffic Reconstruction for Identifying Stop-and-Go Waves

Edgar Ramirez Sanchez · Shreyaa Raghavan · Cathy Wu


Identifying stop-and-go events (SAGs) in traffic flow presents an important avenue for advancing data-driven research for climate change mitigation and sustainability, owing to their substantial impact on carbon emissions, travel time, fuel consumption, and roadway safety. In fact, SAGs are estimated to account for 33-50\% of highway driving externalities. However, insufficient attention has been paid to precisely quantifying where, when, and how much these SAGs take place– necessary for downstream decision making, such as intervention design and policy analysis. A key challenge is that the data available to researchers and governments are typically sparse and aggregated to a granularity that obscures SAGs. To overcome such data limitations, this study thus explores the use of traffic reconstruction techniques for SAG identification. In particular, we introduce a kernel-based method for identifying spatio-temporal features in traffic and leverage bootstrapping to quantify the uncertainty of the reconstruction process. Experimental results on California highway data demonstrate the promise of the method for capturing SAGs. This work contributes to a foundation for data-driven decision making to advance sustainability of traffic systems.

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