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by Tim Beissmann

An Australian student believes automotive engineers should look into the ocean to solve our traffic congestion problems.

University of Sydney School of Biological Sciences PhD student James Herbert-Read is the lead author of new research that shows fish follow simple rules that mean they rarely crash into each other, even when swimming in massive schools.

Mr Herbert-Read told ABC Science Online these rules could be converted to computer systems that could be integrated into cars to make our roads safer and more efficient.

“If you could engineer a system where each car knew where each car was and they could respond to each other and communicate with each other, you would avoid traffic problems,” he said.

“And we’re starting to see that now, with sensors fitted in the newer cars coming out.”

Mr Herbert-Read said the research, which used a technique called ‘artificial neural networks’ determined that each fish only ever responded to its closest neighbour at any time, regardless of the size of the school.

He said the rules of the ocean largely mirrored those of the road.

“These rules include ‘accelerate towards a neighbour that is far away from you’ and ‘decelerate when a neighbour is right in front of you’.

“When we’re driving, we use similar sorts of rules: we decelerate when someone’s in front of us and accelerate if there’s someone about to bump into you from behind.”




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