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Old 2nd March 2009, 22:47   #1
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Default Drive like an Ant, Eliminate Traffic

I am posting here an article regarding scientists experimentations on ants to solve traffic problems. Will be glad to have your comments on this.

If humans took their cues from ants, they might spend less time in traffic.
When opposing streams of leafcutter ants share a narrow path, they instinctively alternate flows in the most efficient way possible. Studying how ants manage this could provide the basis for a system of driverless cars running on ant traffic algorithms.
"They never get stuck in traffic," said Audrey Dussutour, a University of Sydney entomologist. "We should use their rules. I've been working with ants for eight years, and have never seen a traffic jam — and I've tried."
People have long been fascinated with the ability of ants to organize colonial activities in patterns as sophisticated as any urban engineer's megalopolis blueprint. In recent years, scientists have turned ant traffic flows into algorithms applicable to data transmission and vehicular traffic.
Dussutour, whose earlier work showed that leafcutter ants organize themselves into separate and tightly-regulated streams of load-carrying and unburdened individuals when traveling in opposite directions on wide paths, was curious about their dynamics on narrow paths such as the tip of a treebranch — the ant equivalent of a one-lane road.
In the latest findings, published in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, 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."
The results are an example of how individual behaviors optimized to serve a collective good can ultimately benefit the individual as well. If humans would let a network take the wheel, these principles might manage our own congested thoroughfares.
"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.
If ants in the experiment behaved like the average human driver, they'd routinely run head-first into each other, causing insect versions of pile-ups and gridlock. Dussutour's team calculated that patience reduced the average delay experienced by an individual ant crossing a crowded three-meter bridge from 64 to 32 seconds.
"One dominating factor in human traffic is egoism," said University of Zoln traffic flow theorist Andreas Schadschneider. "Drivers optimize their own travel time, without taking much care about others. This leads to phantom traffic jams which occur without any obvious reason. Ants, on the other hand, are not egoistic."
Another way of understanding the difference between human and ant navigation decisions, he said, comes from optimization theory. In human traffic, "the user optimum is relevant, whereas in ant traffic it is the system optimum, which can be quite different," and produces a different set of behaviors.
Guiding the individual ants' decisions is their inherited, colony-serving programming and on-the-ground traffic updates, acquired from an immersive cloud of information that takes the form of pheromone trails and physical contact. Though scientists have studied and pheromones for decades, the latter exchange is less understood.
"We have good evidence that encounters between inbound and outbound workers are important," said study co-author Sam Beshers, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "It's not just that they're managing the traffic flow. They're managing the information flow, too. That's about all we know, but it's potentially very important."
An experimental navigational system called Inter-Vehicle Communication tries to emulate this, with on-board navigation computers exchanging data as they pass each other and roadside base stations. It's yet to be deployed in real-world conditions, though, reflecting the difficulty in replacing a culture and infrastructure of solitary driving.
A compromise, said Schadschneider, may be systems that improve communication between drivers and cars. "This has already been achieved by new devices which transmit information about abrupt velocity decreases to the following cars, which then start to brake automatically, before the driver even realizes the need to brake," he said.
Beshers is optimistic about the potential of driverless cars running on ant traffic algorithms, but cautious about the timeline of their acceptance. Embracing such a system, he said, "assumes that humans could agree on an upper speed limit, which has never yet happened."

Citation: Dussutour, A., Beshers, S., Deneubourg, J. L. and Fourcassié, V.. Journal of Experimental Biology, Vol. 212 Issue 4, Feb. 15, 2009.
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Old 2nd March 2009, 23:10   #2
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Good article Traffico. I remember reading this in DNA some time back. Ants definitely manage a traffic better than us. There is another such article on transportation system Google uses to pick and drop its employees. The system is so designed that it doesnt cause traffic congestions. The moral of such experiments is that greater common good is better than sum of individual goods.

And yes, welcome on board TBHP!
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Old 2nd March 2009, 23:15   #3
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Ego = Root Cause of All Problems
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Old 2nd March 2009, 23:19   #4
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M2 = Money and Muscle Power is another cause.

Any how though out Traffic Police knows that many traffic Jam can be solved with out doing much effort they will still not take any action. If there is any chance I some time feel that I will join some moral Traffic policing.
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Old 2nd March 2009, 23:23   #5
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Interesting article. An entomologist myself, and having worked with fire ants,I must say that these tiny creatures are really a wonder of nature.The things they can do are amazing.
Ah! i wish we were able to use atleast a few of their principles!
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Old 2nd March 2009, 23:47   #6
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Very interesting article. If only people had the sense to move like ants, we would'nt be having so many traffic jams. I'm sure this technology will come some time in the future.
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Old 3rd March 2009, 00:58   #7
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Interesting read. I see that the drivers here in Vancouver follow this routine almost religiously. At an intersection without traffic lights, the cars cross alternatively. I don't know if it is a rule, but I was pleasantly surprised when I first noticed it.
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Old 3rd March 2009, 07:14   #8
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I think because ANTS are better planner then we humans

Why do we have bus stops just after the signal? one of the causes of jams.
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Old 3rd March 2009, 07:52   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lohithrao View Post
I think because ANTS are better planner then we humans

Why do we have bus stops just after the signal? one of the causes of jams.

I think Ants have more discipline than us humans. Discipline is one thing that can help us to an unbelievable extent. Its nothing more than having a good disciplined culture. Tell me one thing our country does not have except crude oil. We have the ability to rock the world and come out on top. But " Roads indicate culture of nation ". We know reality.

The article is really nice. I was always amazed at the unity and discipline followed by ants. And learnt the hard way round not to mess with them.

The root cause of problem we have are :
1) No respect for others. We donot believe that others have a right to live.
2) Ego.
3) Money.
4) Physical strength and available resources to bring mean looking scary characters into picture.
5) Bad moral thinking.

Last edited by aaggoswami : 3rd March 2009 at 07:56.
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Old 3rd March 2009, 07:59   #10
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Interesting read ! We humans are known to not follow rules. Look at us, we bend & break every rule in nature and create a mess. Why should traffic be any different? The only day this will ever stop is when we take away the ability to drive and automate it.
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Old 3rd March 2009, 12:56   #11
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Few points which makes me think that we can the results even if we follow the ants startergy.

1. Almost all ants are of same size and they can travel at the same speed.

But the vehicles are of different sizes and power, so it wont be easy or simple to follow the ANTS methodology.

just my thoughts
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Old 3rd March 2009, 13:53   #12
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Instead you could have provided this link.
Taking Traffic Control Lessons — From Ants | Wired Science from Wired.com
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Old 3rd March 2009, 16:52   #13
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Default traffic pheromones

Thanks for all your reactions, I am new to this forum but I am really happy to be part of it when I see the quality of the discussions going on. I should confess that I am a little suspicious about the "ant model" (I do love ants by the way) or any other model based on automatic kind of behaviour applied to the traffic context, that's why i wanted to share it with you. Dont forget all these experimentations seem to promote "driverless cars". Will you be happy not to drive when you are driving ? As one of you said, it seems that discipline comes naturally to certain species, and obviously, ants dont think too much about what they are doing when they spread their pheromones... ah, the unique chemistry of humanity ! The experiment made by Resnick (turtles, termites and traffic jams) is interesting here : Resnik showed that for a traffic jam to happen, there was no need for any particular obstacle but just one thing was necessary : a gap between vehicules that is not similar from one vehicule to another. Obviously, it is not possible to drive continuously respecting the same gap and the gaps are bound to cumulate to produce a more global "slow down" effect. First question : Do ants respect always the same gap when they move and if they did, how would it be possible ? Second question : If drivers were ants, what would be the equivalent of the ants pheromones ?
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Old 3rd March 2009, 17:52   #14
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Interesting article.
Sadly this can never be followed by humans.
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Old 3rd March 2009, 18:20   #15
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This is an interesting article. But my personal opinion is - we have to note here that ants are following their basic natural instincts and not something that is acquired because of an external stimuli.

Humans cannot follow this instinct as it is not natural and it is something that has to be acquired and hence the need for a system to control all cars and drive them from point A to B without jams.
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