ants marching

Anyone who has ever driven some of our nation's more congested areas may argue that sitting in traffic for hours at a time is not natural human behavior, and they may be right. In fact, negotiating traffic may be more of the provence of insects, as a Gizmag report suggests.

Apparently, ants, bees and termites are all able to manage their traffic flow. The example given is ants, where the smaller of two converging groups will always defer to the larger group. According to Ozan Tonguz, a telecommunications researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, this instinctual behavior has potential applications in our traffic infrastructure.

The Virtual Traffic Lights system has been in development since 2009, and it would be able to determine which of two cars (or groups of cars) approaching a traffic light was larger and allow that group to proceed first. Once the larger group had passed, the smaller group would be allowed to go. According to Tonguz's simulations, this program could reduce commute times by 40 to 60 percent, not to mention the reduction in carbon emissions from a shorter commute time. This initiative has received $2 million, and a spin-off company has been created to help make it a reality.

Dresden University of Technology and ETH Zurich have come together on a similar system that would allow existing traffic lights to communicate with vehicles to improve traffic flow.

Sitting at a red light while the lane with the green can be frustrating and waste fuel. Let us hope these smart red light systems can be implemented everywhere soon.