The price of anarchy in mobility-driven contagion dynamics

Christos Nicolaides, Luis Cueto-Felgueroso, Ruben Juanes


Public policy and individual incentives determine the patterns of human mobility through transportation networks. In the event of a health emergency, the pursuit of maximum social or individual utility may lead to conflicting objectives in the routing strategies of network users. Individuals tend to avoid exposure so as to minimize the risk of contagion, whereas policymakers aim at coordinated behaviour that maximizes the social welfare. Here, we study agent-driven contagion dynamics through transportation networks, coupled to the adoption of either selfish- or policy-driven rerouting strategies. In analogy with the concept of price of anarchy in transportation networks subject to congestion, we show that maximizing individual utility leads to a loss of welfare for the social group, measured here by the total population infected after an epidemic outbreak.

  • Received June 3, 2013.
  • Accepted July 11, 2013.
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