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Phys Rev Lett. 2008 Sep 19;101(12):128701. Epub 2008 Sep 17.

Price of anarchy in transportation networks: efficiency and optimality control.

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Department of Physics, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Daejeon 305-701, Korea.

Erratum in

  • Phys Rev Lett. 2009 Jan 30;102(4):049905.


Uncoordinated individuals in human society pursuing their personally optimal strategies do not always achieve the social optimum, the most beneficial state to the society as a whole. Instead, strategies form Nash equilibria which are often socially suboptimal. Society, therefore, has to pay a price of anarchy for the lack of coordination among its members. Here we assess this price of anarchy by analyzing the travel times in road networks of several major cities. Our simulation shows that uncoordinated drivers possibly waste a considerable amount of their travel time. Counterintuitively, simply blocking certain streets can partially improve the traffic conditions. We analyze various complex networks and discuss the possibility of similar paradoxes in physics.

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