Researchers from the University of Birmingham and America’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) looked at five major cities across the globe – Boston and San Francisco in the US, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Lisbon and Porto in Portugal – to see how changing drivers’ routes at rush hour could ease congestion.

And they discovered the key to clearing the congestion was more socially aware routing.

In their paper “Understanding Congested Travel in Urban Areas”, the scientists examined the way drivers travel between set points in the five cities at morning rush hour times using mobile phone and road map data from authorities. It revealed “that on average 15-30 per cent of the total minutes lost in congestion is caused solely by selfish routing”.

In other words, drivers choosing to take short cuts before rejoining a main carriageway actually create more congestion.

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