Futility of being selfish in optimized traffic

Ho Fai Po, Chi Ho Yeung*, David Saad

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Optimizing traffic flow is essential for easing congestion. However, even when globally optimal, coordinated, and individualized routes are provided, users may choose alternative routes which offer lower individual costs. By analyzing the impact of selfish route choices on performance using the cavity method, we find that a small ratio of selfish route choices improves the global performance of uncoordinated transportation networks but degrades the efficiency of optimized systems. Remarkably, compliant users always gain in the former and selfish users may gain in the latter, under some parameter conditions. The theoretical results are in good agreement with large-scale simulations. Iterative route switching by a small fraction of selfish users leads to Nash equilibria close to the globally optimal routing solution. Our theoretical framework also generalizes the use of the cavity method, originally developed for the study of equilibrium states, to analyze iterative game-theoretical problems. These results shed light on the feasibility of easing congestion by route coordination when not all vehicles follow the coordinated routes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number022306
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

©2021 American Physical Society. Futility of being selfish in optimized traffic. Ho Fai Po, Chi Ho Yeung, and David Saad
Phys. Rev. E 103, 022306

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China (Projects No. EdUHK ECS 28300215, No. GRF 18304316, No. GRF 18301217, and No. GRF 18301119); the EdUHK FLASS Dean's Research Fund Grants No. IRS12 2019 04418 and No. ROP14 2019 04396; and EdUHK RDO Internal Research Grants No. RG67 2018-2019R R4015 and No. RG31 2020-2021R R4152. D.S. acknowledges support from the Leverhulme trust (Grant No. RPG-2018-092) and the EPSRC Programme Grant TRANSNET (No. EP/R035342/1).


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