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16 October 2020 Comments (0) Environment, Mobility

Observing ants to better manage traffic

Fleets of commercial vehicles that circulate in large cities could halve their emissions and better meet targets for reducing CO2 emissions by using technology that models the behaviour…of ants.

Researchers at Aston University in the UK have developed a technology that mimics the way insects share their knowledge. When applied to our problems with road traffic and congestion, this programme should make it possible to optimise the routes of vehicles in large cities. 

The research team used a technique known as the “metaheuristic algorithm”, which solves difficult optimisation problems. The programme mimics how ant colonies solve problems and improve their existing behaviours.

The idea is not new, but it has mainly been perfected. “Algorithms based on the foraging behaviour of ants have already been used to solve the itinerary and traffic problems of a few vehicles. We have now figured out how to adapt them to urban-sized fleets, and by having a view over several weeks of traffic“, said Dr Darren Chitty, in charge of the research programme at Aston.  

Multiple benefits

Initial tests have already been carried out in collaboration with a maintenance company based in Birmingham (UK), which manages up to 45 vehicles at the same time. After six weeks of testing, the University said the company had achieved a 50% savings compared to the time vehicles typically spent on the road. 

The profits for this pilot company are not negligible: it has saved on fuel, was able to increase its profit margin while reducing the CO2 emissions of its vehicles (4,25kg per van per day). 

Dr Darren Chitty concludes: “Our research can act as an incentive for businesses, but also administrations. Instead of taxing vehicles that enter certain areas, this type of software makes it possible to start a much more virtuous circle.

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