Prediction of traffic flow variables such as traffic volume, travel speed or travel time for a short time horizon is of paramount importance in traffic control. Hence, the data assimilation process in traffic modeling for estimation and prediction plays a key role. However, the increasing complexity, non-linearity and presence of various uncertainties (both in
the measured data and models) are important factors affecting the traffic state prediction. To overcome this problem, new methodologies have been proposed. With this aim, in this paper we propose the use of the Probability Hypothesis Density (PHD) filter for traffic estimation. This methology is intensively studied, developed and improved for the purposes of multiple object tracking and consists in the recursive state estimation of several targets by using the information coming from an observation process. However, some issues need to be studied, especially the
impact of the clutter (false alarm) intensity. The goal of this paper is to expose the potential of the PHD filters for real-time traffic state estimation and the choice of an appropriate clutter intensity. This investigation is based on a Cell Transmission Model (CTM) coupled with the PHD filter. It brings a novel tool to the state
estimation problem and allows one to estimate the densities in traffic networks. In this work, we compare this PHD filter with the particle filter (PF) which has been successfully applied in
traffic control and conclude that the PHD filter can be seen as a relevant alternative that opens new research avenues.