Prof. Dr. Michael Schreckenberg | Physics of Transport and Traffic

Personal Details

Professor Michael Schreckenberg, born 1956 in Düsseldorf, studied theoretical physics at the University of Cologne, where he got in 1985 his PhD in statistical physics. In 1994 he moved to the University Duisburg-Essen, where he became the first German professor for Physics of Transport and Traffic in 1997. Since more than ten years he is working on modelling, simulation and optimisation of large-scale transportation systems, especially road traffic and the influence of human behaviour on it. His current activities include online traffic-forecasts on the highway network in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the reaction of drivers on traffic information and the analysis of a crowd of panicking people.


Transportation and traffic are in our highly mobilized world two of the great challenges of the future which it is necessary to solve building on mobility. Firstly, the set of the goods, information and persons which must be transported on the highways enlarges daily. Parallelly, both the number of the jams and the duration of the transportation increase. Of which one hoped even new technologies ("multimedia") that they would make a part of the transportation superfluously, suffer from transportation problems ("jam on the information highway") recently.
With regard to these great tasks of the future very good career prospects will open up for experts in the field. A degree in the studies direction “Physics of Transportation and Traffic” makes the student such an expert.


An emphasis of the research is on problems from the following fields:

  • Car Traffic
    Modelling of traffic flow:
    Based on the Nagel-Schreckenberg-Model, the dynamics of cellular automata models with slightly modificated rules is investigated. This is done in order to model a variety of effects known in real traffic scenarios. An example may be the so-called VDR-models (velocity dependent randomization). Here the focus lies on the occurrence of metastable states or the synchronized traffic.
    Due to its simple set of rules cellular automaton traffic flow models are suitable to simulate large-scale road networks in multiple real time - a basic requirement for a "traffic forecast". If real traffic data are supplemented via an Online-Connection to such a simulation the actual traffic state of the whole network can be mapped in a computer as it has been done in the framework of the project "autobahn.NRW" and for the project "RuhrPilot".
  • Human Factors
    Although Intelligent Transportation Systems have reached a high technical standard the reaction of road users to this information is not well explored. For instance every traffic forecast suffers from a fundamental problem: The messages are based on future predictions which themselves are affected by drivers' reactions to the messages they receive. Therefore, it is inevitable to understand the decision making of road users in greater detail.
  • Pedestrian
    The application of CA-models to describe and understand the motion of groups of people is a new and exciting field of research. Since the scope of the available data is limited, we are focusing on empirical studies as well as on model development. A central role plays the application on evacuation simulation for passenger ships. This comprises the formulation of basic rules at and the development of comprehensive software tools.