Drive Like an Ant, Eliminate Traffic

The patterns of leafcutter ants are not unlike vehicular traffic patterns, yet they never get stuck in traffic or get in accidents. This article shows what we can learn from them, and why we probably never will.

"In the latest findings, published in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, [University of Sydney entomologist Audrey] Dussutour's team found that ants leaving the colony automatically gave right-of-way to those returning with food. Of the returning ants, some were empty-mandibled - but rather than passing their leaf-carrying, slow-moving brethren, they gathered in clusters and moved behind them.

This seemingly counterintuitive strategy - when stuck behind a slow-moving truck, are you content to slow down? - actually saved them time.

'Leafcutters paths in particular look very much like car traffic,' said Dussutour. 'There's a lot of times on the highway when you're stuck behind a truck, and sometimes overtaking it is not optimal.'

'We essentially would have to hand over control of the vehicle to a collectively intelligent system that would move all vehicles from their source to destination,' said Marcus Randall, a Bond University software mathematician. People would be reluctant, he said, but "accidents would be virtually non-existent and travel would become much more efficient."

Full Story: Taking Traffic Control Lessons — From Ants
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