Researchers are developing a new technology that may help prevent car crashes by replicating an insect’s vision.
Locusts are able to utilize an “early warning system” that helps them avoid crashing into other locusts when they’re flying in swarms.
Scientists took features of the locusts’ system and made it into a computer system that enables accurate collision sensors in cars.
Professor Shigang Yue and Dr. Claire Rind at the University of Lincoln decided to create the technology after they were inspired by the way a locust’s brain processes electrical and chemical signals.
“We created a system inspired by the locusts’ motion sensitive interneuron - the lobula giant movement detector. It was used in a robot to enable it to explore paths or interact with objects, effectively using visual input only,” Yue said. “Vision plays a critical role in the interaction of most animal species and even relatively low-order animals have remarkable visual processing capabilities.”
“For example, insects can respond to approaching predators with remarkable speed.”
The technology would essentially think of approaching vehicles and other objects as predators.
“It could be used to enable vehicles to understand what is happening on the road ahead and take swifter action,” Yue said.
Rind said the technology is not conventional, but it is an energy-efficient alternative to other similar detectors.
“It’s not the conventional approach as it avoids using a radar or infrared detectors, which require very heavy-duty computer processing. Instead, it is modelled on the locust’s eyes and neurons as the basis of a collision avoidance system,” Rind said. “We want to apply this work to collision avoidance systems in vehicles, a major challenge for the automotive industry.”
It was part of a project with the University of Hamburg and China’s Tsinhua University, as well as Xi’an Jiaotong University.
They hope that eventually, the system will be able to eliminate human error on the road.
“This research offers us important insights into how we can develop a system for the car which could improve performance to such a level that we could take out the element of human error,” Rind said.