On Statistical Analysis of Vehicle Time-Headways Using Mixed Distribution Models

  • Fu Yu

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    For decades, vehicle time-headway distribution models have been studied by many researchers and traffic engineers. A good time-headway model can be beneficial to traffic studies and management in many aspects; e.g. with a better understanding of road traffic patterns and road user behaviour, the researchers or engineers can give better estimations and predictions under certain road traffic conditions and hence make better decisions on traffic management and control. The models also help us to implement high-quality microscopic traffic simulation studies to seek good solutions to traffic problems with minimal interruption of the real traffic environment and minimum costs.

    Compared within previously studied models, the mixed (SPM and GQM) mod- els, especially using the gamma or lognormal distributions to describe followers headways, are probably the most recognized ones by researchers in statistical stud- ies of headway data. These mixed models are reported with good fitting results indicated by goodness-of-fit tests, and some of them are better than others in com- putational costs. The gamma-SPM and gamma-GQM models are often reported to have similar fitting qualities, and they often out-perform the lognormal-GQM model in terms of computational costs. A lognormal-SPM model cannot be formed analytically as no explicit Laplace transform is available with the lognormal dis- tribution. The major downsides of using mixed models are the difficulties and more flexibilities in fitting process as they have more parameters than those single models, and this sometimes leads to unsuccessful fitting or unreasonable fitted pa- rameters despite their success in passing GoF tests. Furthermore, it is difficult to know the connections between model parameters and realistic traffic situations or environments, and these parameters have to be estimated using headway samples.Hence, it is almost impossible to explain any traffic phenomena with the param- eters of a model. Moreover, with the gamma distribution as the only common well-known followers headway model, it is hard to justify whether it has described the headway process appropriately. This creates a barrier for better understanding the process of how drivers would follow their preceding vehicles.

    This study firstly proposes a framework developed using MATLAB, which would help researchers in quick implementations of any headway distributions of interest. This framework uses common methods to manage and prepare headway samples to meet those requirements in data analysis. It also provides common structures and methods on implementing existing or new models, fitting models, testing their performance hence reporting results. This will simplify the development work involved in headway analysis, avoid unnecessary repetitions of work done by others and provide results in formats that are more comparable with those reported by others.

    Secondly, this study focuses on the implementation of existing mixed models, i.e. the gamma-SPM, gamma-GQM and lognormal-GQM, using the proposed framework. The lognormal-SPM is also tested for the first time, with the recently developed approximation method of Laplace transform available for lognormal distributions. The parameters of these mixed models are specially discussed, as means of restrictions to simplify the fitting process of these models. Three ways of parameter pre-determinations are attempted over gamma-SPM and gamma-GQM models.

    A couple of response-time (RT) distributions are focused on in the later part of this study. Two RT models, i.e. Ex-Gaussian (EMG) and inverse Gaussian (IVG) are used, for first time, as single models to describe headway data. The fitting performances are greatly comparable to the best known lognormal single model. Further extending this work, these two models are tested as followers headway distributions in both SPM and GQM mixed models. The test results have shown excellent fitting performance. These now bring researchers more alternatives to use mixed models in headway analysis, and this will help to compare the be- haviours of different models when they are used to describe followers headway data. Again, similar parameter restrictions are attempted for these new mixed models, and the results show well-acceptable performance, and also corrections on some unreasonable fittings caused by the over flexibilities using 4- or 5- parameter models.

    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorWilliam Gillespie (Supervisor)


    • Time headway
    • Mixed-models
    • Semi-Poisson model
    • Generalized queuing model

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