Backpressure control with estimated queue lengths for urban network traffic

Li Li, Victor Okoth, Saif Eddin Jabari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Backpressure (BP) control was originally used for packet routing in communications networks. Since its first application to network traffic control, it has undergone different modifications to tailor it to traffic problems with promising results. Most of these BP variants are based on an assumption of perfect knowledge of traffic conditions throughout the network at all times, specifically the queue lengths (more accurately, the traffic volumes). However, it has been well established that accurate queue length information at signalized intersections is never available except in fully connected environments. Although connected vehicle technologies are developing quickly, a fully connected environment in the real world is still far. This paper tests the effectiveness of BP control when incomplete or imperfect knowledge about traffic conditions is available. BP control is combined with a speed/density field estimation module suitable for a partially connected environment. The proposed system is referred to as a BP with estimated queue lengths (BP-EQ). The robustness of BP-EQ is tested to varying levels of connected vehicle penetration, and BP-EQ is compared with the original BP (i.e. assuming accurate knowledge of traffic conditions), a real-world adaptive signal controller, and optimized fixed timing control using microscopic traffic simulation with field calibrated data. These results show that with a connected vehicle penetration rate as little as 10%, BP-EQ can outperform the adaptive controller and the fixed timing controller in terms of average delay, throughput, and maximum stopped queue lengths under high demand scenarios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)320-330
Number of pages11
JournalIET Intelligent Transport Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • General Environmental Science
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Law


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