[ExI] Cars and Ants

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Thu May 21 01:28:34 UTC 2009

I was thinking about the self piloting car problem while walking to
work yesterday. I often think about it, because the whole concept of
manually piloting a car really irritates me; it's a job for a machine,
and yet here we are, over a century beyond the invention of the
horseless carriage, still providing the control system for these

Anyway, I see a lot of promise in GPS systems and accurate maps and
all the cool gear we have for planning a route and navigating from
point A to point B. The unsolved problem seems to be how the car's
control system can manage from moment to moment, at the millisecond
level, staying on the road and behaving sensibly.

I had two ideas about this. The first one was that if we just had a
simple to sense directionality to road surfaces, like grooves or
embedded wires or lots of painted stripes, you could know which way
the road runs, and know if you were skewed to that direction. You
could even modulate the pattern (colours? wiggles? extra or missing
lines?) to provide other information - left turn coming up, stop
coming up, lane ending merge right, etc.

But I like my second idea better, which relates to ants. I'm thinking
of a pheromone trail. Could we get cars to leave a weak chemical trail
as they drive around? If most of the cars did this, you'd end up with
a nice aggregate trail in every lane of every road, strongest in the
average path, with a nice falling gradient as you move away from the
center. So it should be quite useful to follow it.

Note this doesn't tell you where how to navigate and intersection, for
instance, although it might map out all the alternative routes. But,
there's some chance that, along with some visual systems and collision
detection systems and yada yada, it would help solve the moment to
moment steering problem.

About how you'd drop such a trail; could you add something to gasoline
that would come out the exhaust and leave a deposit on the road that
would degrade over time? In fact, is there something in there already?
Maybe these trails are already there??


http://emlyntech.wordpress.com - coding related
http://point7.wordpress.com - ranting
http://emlynoregan.com - main site

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