The identification and empirical characterization of vehicular (Lagrangian) fundamental diagrams in multilane traffic flow

Peter J. Jin, Jia Li, Bin Ran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Summary Traditional macroscopic traffic flow modeling framework adopts the spatial-temporal coordinate system to analyze traffic flow dynamics. With such modeling and analysis paradigm, complications arise for traffic flow data collected from mobile sensors such as probe vehicles equipped with mobile phones, Bluetooth, and Global Positioning System devices. The vehicle-based measurement technologies call for new modeling thoughts that address the unique features of moving measurements and explore their full potential. In this paper, we look into the concept of vehicular fundamental diagram (VFD) and discuss its engineering implications. VFD corresponds to a conventional fundamental diagram (FD) in the kinematic wave (KW) theory that adopts space-time coordinates. Similar to the regular FD in the KW theory, VFD encapsulates all traffic flow dynamics. In this paper, to demonstrate the full potential of VFD in interpreting multilane traffic flow dynamics, we generalize the classical Edie's formula and propose a direct approach of reconstructing VFD from traffic measurements in the vehicular coordinates. A smoothing algorithm is proposed to effectively reduce the nonphysical fluctuation of traffic states calculated from multilane vehicle trajectories. As an example, we apply the proposed methodology to explore the next-generation simulation datasets and identify the existence and forms of shock waves in different coordinate systems. Our findings provide empirical justifications and further insight for the Lagrangian traffic flow theory and models when applied in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-792
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Advanced Transportation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • density
  • flow
  • intelligent transport systems
  • speed
  • transport and traffic systems analysis
  • transportation analysis


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