Don’t want more ERP? Learn from the ants!

Ever heard the phrase “They’re moving like ants!” used when caught in traffic? Well, in a traffic jam, you would actually want other cars to be travelling like ants! In unidirectional ant trails, there are rarely any traffic jams (John A, Schadschneider A, Chowdhury D. & Nishinari K, 2009). Therefore, ant movement is highly efficient. This efficiency movement pattern has even been studied for the use of transport networks in Singapore (Alves D, van Ast J, Zhe Chong, De Schutter B, Babuska R, 2010)!

The lack of traffic jams is partially due to an interesting behaviour that ants carry out. Ants do not overtake other ants in a trail. They do this for the sole purpose of traffic optimisation. By not overtaking, they do not force other ants to slow down to give way, and also save energy as overtaking requires the overtaker to speed up significantly. Thus, as scientists have noticed by observing Leptogenys processionalis, an atypical species of ant, no matter the traffic density, trail speeds remain relatively similar (John A, et al, 2009).

How did ants learn such behaviour? Evolution might be the answer to that (PHYS ORG, 2009). Since food sources are rarely near ant nests, it is essential to the ants’ survival that they have an efficient food transport system. Thus, over the years, ants have become resistant to the urge to overtake. Perhaps if humans start being more courteous on the road, it may become ingrained in our mindsets not to overtake!



Alves, D.; van Ast, J.; Zhe Cong; De Schutter, B.; Babuska, R., “Ant Colony Optimization for traffic dispersion routing,” Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITSC), 2010 13th International IEEE Conference on , vol., no., pp.683,688, 19-22 Sept. 2010
doi: 10.1109/ITSC.2010.5625146


John, A., Schadschneider, A., Chowdhury, D., & Nishinari, K. (2009). Trafficlike collective movement of ants on trails: absence of jammed phase. Physical Review Letters102(10). doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.102.108001


PHYS ORG (2009, March 30). Optimized by Evolution, Ants Don’t Have Traffic Jams. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from