Ants Can Do It, Why Can’t We?

Ants, even when moving in large swarms seem to handle traffic, prevent traffic jams, and keep traffic flowing smoothly much better than humans can.

Physicist Apoorva Nagar at the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology working on previous work by a group of German and Indian scientists has written a soon to be published paper on this phenomenon. The German and Indian scientist’s work showed that ants traveling in a line were able to move steadily and at a constant speed without bunching up. Nagar was able to show mathematically why large groups of ants seem to be able to move so steadily without causing a traffic jam.

According to Nagar, the reasons ants don’t jam up are:

  • They don’t have egos; they don’t feel the need to pass everyone else.
  • If there is a blockage, they don’t stop to rubberneck; they just keep moving steadily around the blockage.
  • They seem to become more disciplined when the path narrows; they move in a straighter line and vary their speed less.

These are basic concepts in traffic flow management that many humans seem incapable of grasping. It’s hard to convince drivers that maintaining a longer following distance and traveling at a steady speed, even if that means going slower than the speed limit, will keep traffic moving smoothly and actually get them to their destination faster. It’s for this reason that advocates of self driving cars are hoping that, when the cars take over driving, traffic jams will be a thing of the past.

We have written on this issue before and have posted videos that explain why traffic jams occur and how to avoid them but they bear repeating.

Read more: Why Ants Handle Traffic Better Than You Do

Traffic Jam without bottleneck – experimental evidence

Traffic Waves