No ant traffic jams

Print edition : February 20, 2015

Studies of ant trails have shown that the insects never seem to get into traffic jams. Photo: K.R. DEEPAK

STUDIES of ant trails have shown that the insects never seem to get into a traffic jam even when they are closely packed together. To understand why, Debasish Chaudhuri of the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad and Apoorva Nagar of the Institute of Space Sciences and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, of the Indian Space Research Organisation, have modelled ant traffic as the movement of interacting particles, with interaction mechanisms including limited vision, antennal touch and pheromone sensing. Their paper, titled “Absence of jamming in ant trails: Feedback control of self propulsion and noise”, is due to be published in the forthcoming issue of Physical Review E. Their results suggest that the absence of jamming is because ants, unlike cars, may touch and push each other. This allows them to prevent the formation of jams by forming a single cluster that keeps moving at a constant speed. The researchers suggest the finding could help in the design of self-driving cars whose traffic would not jam.

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