Have you ever marveled at the way animals move together in droves without bumping into one another, like, say, ants, bees, birds or fish? The engineers at Nissan Motor Company have thought of this, and now want to apply the principle to cars so that road collisions may one day be completely avoided. The goal is to eventually have zero fatalities or serious injuries among car passengers.
Toru Futami, Nissan's engineering director of advanced technology and research, believes that studying the behavior of animals moving in groups could help automotive engineers understand how cars can interact with each other for improved road safety.
"In our ongoing quest to develop collision-avoidance systems for the next generation of automobiles, we needed to look to Mother Nature to find the ultimate form of collision-avoidance systems in action--in particular, the behavioral patterns of fish," says Futami.
The result of this study is the creation of the Eporo (Episode 0 Robot), which utilizes Laser Range Finder technology--"inspired by the bumblebee's compound eyes that can see more than 300 degrees"--along with other advanced technologies. Nissan has so far built seven Eporo units that communicate among themselves to monitor each other's positions to avoid collisions. They can also travel side-by-side or in single file, much like fish swimming in schools.
"In current traffic laws, cars are supposed to drive within the lanes and come to a halt at stop signals, but if all cars were autonomous, the need for lanes and even signals could be gone," Futami explains. "We talked about fish earlier, and fish follow these three rules: Don't go away too far, don't get too close, and don't hit each other. Fish form schools with these three rules. A school of fish doesn't have lines to help guide the fish, but they manage to swim extremely close to each other. So, if cars can perform the same type of thing within a group and move accordingly, we should be able to have more cars operate with same-width roads. This would lead to more cars, but with less traffic congestion."
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