Categorization of the lane change decision process on freeways

M Keyvan Ekbatani, VL Knoop, W Daamen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Traffic operations for new road layouts are often simulated using microscopic traffic simulation packages. These traffic simulation packages usually simulate traffic on freeways by a combination of a car-following model and a lane change model. The car-following models have gained attention of researchers and are well calibrated versus data. The proposed lane change models are often representations of assumed reasonable behavior, not necessarily corresponding to reality. The current simulation packages apply solely one specific type of model for car-following or lane changing for all vehicles during the simulation. This paper investigates the decision process of lane changing maneuvers for a variety of drivers based on a two-stage test-drive. Participants are asked to take a drive on a freeway in the Netherlands in a camera-equipped vehicle. Afterwards, the drivers are asked to comment on their choices related to lane and speed choice, while watching the video. This paper reveals that different drivers have completely different strategies to choose lanes, and the choices to change lane are related to their speed choice. Four distinct strategies are empirically found. These strategies differ not only in parameter values, as is currently being modeled in most simulation packages, but also in their reasoning. Most remarkably, all drivers perceive their strategy as an obvious behavior and expect all other drivers to drive in a similar way. In addition to the interviews of the participants in the test-drive, 11 people who did not take part in the experiment were interviewed and questioned on lane change decisions. Moreover, the findings of this study have been presented to various groups of audience with different backgrounds (about 150 people). Their comments and feedback on the derived driving strategies have added some value to this study. The findings in this paper form a starting point for developing a novel lane change model which considers four different driving strategies among the drivers on freeway. This is a significant contribution in the area of driving behavior modeling, since the existing microscopic simulators consider only one type of lane change models for all drivers during the simulation. This could lead to significant changes in the way lane changes on freeways are modeled
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-526
JournalTransportation Research. Part C: Emerging Technologies
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2015


  • Driving behavior modeling
  • Lane change decision
  • Microscopic simulation
  • Freeway traffic
  • Lane change strategies


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