Risk aversion, the value of information and traffic equilibrium
Information about traffic conditions has traditionally been conveyed to drivers by radio and variable message signs, and more recently via the Internet and Advanced Traveler Information Systems. This has spurred research on how travelers respond to information, how much they are willing to pay for it and how much they are likely to benefit from it collectively. In this paper we analyze the decisions of drivers whether to acquire information and which route to take on a simple congested road network. Drivers vary in their degree of risk aversion with respect to travel time. Four information regimes are considered: No information, Free information which is publicly available at no cost, Costly information which is publicly available for a fee, and Private information which is available free to a single individual. Private information is shown to be individually more valuable than either Free or Costly information, while the benefits from Free and Costly information cannot be ranked in general. Free or Costly information can decrease the expected utility of drivers who are very risk-averse, and with sufficient risk aversion in the population the aggregate compensating variation for information can be negative.
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