Ants cannot get the better of human intelligence, but they can efficiently tackle traffic congestion problems. It is rare to find ants in a deadlock, as they are always seen moving in long trails.
Studying ants can help humans avoid traffic congestion because they behave cooperatively and move with a common goal. They change routes, increase speed, and reduce the gap between them. Humans can solve traffic issues by cooperating, choosing alternative routes, and avoiding driving on crowded roads.
Ants can quickly maneuver their direction of movement after bumping into each other. It helps avoid the deadlock condition and maintain a steady flow towards the destination.
They are good at managing high-density traffic problems, like crowding and congestion, and face fewer problems than humans because they do not have to stop at traffic signals.
How do ants avoid traffic congestion?
Ants maintain a steady flow while moving toward the food source or nest and keep digging tunnels without any interruption by their fellows. No deadlock occurs because ants quickly change routes after detecting overcrowding and adjust their speed accordingly.
In 2008, an experiment was conducted by a German Scientist in which he designed a motorway for ants in the lab, which led them from nests to a food source.
He designed interchanges on the motorway to study the possibility of traffic jams and found that they kept joining the trail until it became highly dense.
They chose alternative routes instead of going through a highly dense trail or a blocked path. It indicated that they avoid crowding and congestion by choosing alternative routes.
A detailed study of their behavior by other researchers indicated that ants produce fewer pheromones when they detect a blocked pathway, which helps stop the entry of more ants into the trail.
Adjustment of speed
An experiment was recently conducted at the University of Arizona and the University of Toulouse when scientists studied the behavior of Argentine ants by building several bridges to food sources.
They used bridges of different sizes (5mm, 10mm, and 15mm) and less to highly dense colonies to estimate the accurate results and observed their behavior by conducting 170 experiments.
The researchers found that ants moved smoothly and steadily even if the roads were occupied up to 80%. However, the flow of car traffic decreases when the roads get occupied up to 40%.
They began to move speedily and reduced the gap to allow more and more of their fellows to become a part of the foraging trail, which helped avoid the risk of congestion.
These insects do not suffer from traffic jams despite the presence of hundreds or thousands of members in their colony because they have common goals to achieve at the end of the day.
They release pheromones to communicate and help each other because they have no individual preferences and work for the colony collectively.
They do not compete to reach the food source or nests and allow their fellows to maintain a steady flow toward the destination without interfering in their path.
They avoid congestion by moving away from the trail if there is a risk of blockage. The ants moving out of the nests provide a path for fellows coming inside having food on their backs.
How can humans avoid traffic congestion by studying ants?
Some biologists studied the behavior of ants at the University of California and explored their movement patterns while building nests.
They studied movement patterns during foraging and transportation of food particles to nests. They concluded that humans can avoid traffic jams by following ants’ behavior.
They maintained a steady and smooth flow rate by cooperating and communicating with each other. They do not hesitate to change routes and look for alternative paths to make a new trail.
In the same way, humans can also look for other routes if they find high traffic flow on the road, as it helps them maintain a steady flow and avoid traffic jams.
Seon O’Fallon also studied 439 nests of 31 different ant species to analyze their behaviors and compared their transportation methods and foraging trails to humans’ car traffic.
He found that both of them come across similar issues on their paths, so humans can tackle this problem if they follow the self-regulation rules of ants.
Limitations for following ants rules to avoid traffic congestion
There are some limitations for humans to follow the rules of ants to avoid traffic congestion because they have individual preferences and separate goals.
There is a lack of cooperation among humans as they try to overtake a vehicle and make their way through traffic.
Moreover, there is limited communication between the car drivers, unlike ants that engage in chemical communication. It increases the likelihood of congestion on roads and creates problems.
In addition, there is a lack of resilience for individual failure among humans, but ants can make up the loss and make a new trail or find another route.
According to Pinter Wollman, a professor at the University of California, traffic congestion can only be avoided if autonomous or programmed vehicles are on the roads.
These vehicles work on cues, like ants, and efficiently determine the speed and time to stop or move ahead. These do not need any instruction from humans and help prevent congestion.