Ant Intelligence Could Help Us Steer Clear of Traffic Jams

By Andrew Moseman | July 23, 2008 1:21 pm

Ants!Earlier this month we wrote about a study of adaptable ants that changed their leaf-gathering strategies to bypass a roadblock thrown in their way. These clever insects solve traffic jams much more easily than big-brained humans do, and now scientists want to borrow their secrets to ease our highway woes.

Ants leave a trail of pheromones to show others the best way back to the nest; when others follow, they leave their own pheromones and the trail is reinforced. They all work together through what biologists call “distributed intelligence.” You can see this skill demonstrated in a Slate video here.

Unfortunately, getting a swarm of humans to all work together isn’t so easy. But thankfully, we might not have to—our cars could do it for us. Some scientists think we could copy ant ingenuity by teaching our cars to talk to one another. In one model, called Inter-Vehicle Communication, cars would send out a signal when they drop below 10 mph that tells other cars that they’re entering a traffic jam. If all the vehicles in one area send this message, other drivers—whose cars are receiving this data—know to find an alternate route.

Commuters aren’t the only people who can learn from ants—according to Slate, companies that move merchandise by truck have turned to algorithms based on ants to figure out the most efficient routes through a congested area.

Now if only we could lift 20 times our body weight like some ants can.

Image: iStockphoto

MORE ABOUT: ants, insects, math
  • Jozef Goj

    Ants have the ability to walk upside down so they have the versatility to manouver in any direction. They work at one speed and if you watch closely they frequently collide.
    If you want roads infrastructure to work then put in intersections that do not slow traffic.
    When infrastructure is loaded during peak time the current infrastructure slows to the speed of the slowest intersections. Traffic lights that just stop traffic flow have been around for 140 years, roundabouts 104 years.
    The Red Tan intersection in Texas has eight slow zones and if turning left or right has two merges and like the cloverleaf is a slow intersection under load.
    Liquid Flow Intersections are designed to get you through the intersection as fast as possible as safe as possible.
    When placed into the road system on all major roads and freeways traffic jams gridlock and congestion cannot happen.
    The High Speed Liquid Flow intersection there is only one merge. When entering the road being turned into.
    Jozef Goj Ceo UBTSC Pty Ltd

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  • Bader

    Hey great blog about traffic, Thanks for explaining about this in your post.

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  • Papia Dutta

    The french Philosopher Rene Descartes regarded animals as having no soul or consciousness. but with more elaborative study on mind and mental processes of homo sapiens and other living being were atleast regarded as having consciousness and mind. insects like ants which are so small in size are also regarded as endowed with intelligence.

    I would like to know that how how does the mechanism of memory works in case of ants.
    any kind of page suggestion or website will be humbly accepted.

    Thank you

  • chloe ellevsen

    you are the hotte

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