Machine Learning Approach to Short-Term Traffic Congestion Prediction in a Connected Environment

Amr Elfar, Alireza Talebpour, Hani S. Mahmassani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traffic congestion is a complex phenomenon triggered by a combination of multiple interacting factors. One of the main factors is the disturbances caused by individual vehicles, which cannot be identified in aggregate traffic data. Advances in vehicle wireless communications present new opportunities to measure traffic perturbations at the individual vehicle level. The key question is whether it is possible to find the relationship between these perturbations and shockwave formation and utilize this knowledge to improve the identification and prediction of congestion formation. Accordingly, this paper explores the use of three machine learning techniques, logistic regression, random forests, and neural networks, for short-term traffic congestion prediction using vehicle trajectories available through connected vehicles technology. Vehicle trajectories provided by the Next Generation SIMulation (NGSIM) program were utilized in this study. Two types of predictive models were developed in this study: (1) offline models which are calibrated based on historical data and are updated (re-trained) whenever significant changes occur in the system, such as changes/updates to the infrastructure, and (2) online models which are calibrated using historical data and updated regularly using real-time information on prevailing traffic conditions obtained through V2V/V2I communications. Results show that the accuracy of the models built in this study to predict the congested traffic state can reach 97%. The models presented can be used in various potential applications including improving road safety by warning drivers of upcoming traffic slowdowns and improving mobility through integration with traffic control systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-195
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number45
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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