Universal power law governing pedestrian interactions

Ioannis Karamouzas, Brian Skinner, Stephen J. Guy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


Human crowds often bear a striking resemblance to interacting particle systems, and this has prompted many researchers to describe pedestrian dynamics in terms of interaction forces and potential energies. The correct quantitative form of this interaction, however, has remained an open question. Here, we introduce a novel statistical-mechanical approach to directly measure the interaction energy between pedestrians. This analysis, when applied to a large collection of human motion data, reveals a simple power-law interaction that is based not on the physical separation between pedestrians but on their projected time to a potential future collision, and is therefore fundamentally anticipatory in nature. Remarkably, this simple law is able to describe human interactions across a wide variety of situations, speeds, and densities. We further show, through simulations, that the interaction law we identify is sufficient to reproduce many known crowd phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number238701
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2 2014

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