How predictable are macroscopic traffic states: a perspective of uncertainty quantification

Guopeng Li*, Victor L. Knoop, Hans van Lint

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Traffic condition forecasting is fundamental for Intelligent Transportation Systems. Besides accuracy, many services require an estimate of uncertainty for each prediction. Uncertainty quantification must consider the inherent randomness in traffic dynamics, the so-called aleatoric uncertainty, and the additional distrust caused by data shortage, the so-called epistemic uncertainty. They together depict how predictable macroscopic traffic is. This study uses deep ensembles of graph neural networks to estimate both types of uncertainty in network-level speed forecasting. Experimental results given by the used model reveal that, although rare congestion patterns arise randomly, the short-term predictability of traffic states is mainly restricted by the irreducible stochasticity in traffic dynamics. The predicted future state bifurcates into congested or free-flowing cases. This study suggests that the potential for improving prediction models through expanding speed and flow data is limited while diversifying data types is crucial.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2314766
Number of pages24
JournalTransportmetrica B: Transport Dynamics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • traffic forecasting
  • uncertainty quantification
  • traffic dynamics
  • predictability


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