Treehugger wrote a good piece on how biologist Janine Benyus wants to take her work in Biomimicry to the city. Biomimicry, if you are not familiar with the term, looks at nature in order to apply some of the ways the natural world functions to manmade products or systems. One well known example of biomimcry would be robotics, where robots are often modeled after living creatures. The concept can and has been applied to other fields as well.
Transportation, for instance, could learn from ants. Ants in a trail travel in close proximity to one another at a pretty consistent distance, and never seem to get lost. They use pheromones to communicate with each other and mark their trail. If we made our transportation systems like this, with vehicles communicating with each other and with the guideway, they might see improvements in efficiency. Some of these aspects are being researched in systems like IntelliDrive, but no word yet on whether the ants provided any input on these automobile communication systems.
Hit up the link for more info on the areas Janine Benyus wants to tackle. The article doesnâ€™t discuss transportation so much as environmental, landscape, and building aspects, but transportation is inseparable from the city and will inevitably need addressing in any projects she participates in. Janine mentioned in the article that the question being asked in applying biomimicry to cities is, “How can you have a city perform like an ecosystem?” Chew on that thought for awhile.
Forget red light cameras like Fort Lauderdale and many other Florida cities want to install. If anything, evidence has shown that they make traffic lights worse, as the cities or the contractors decrease yellow time to hand out more tickets. No, we want to see useful technology come to our traffic lights.
Thankfully, Germany has some innovation to offer in this area. As reported on Kicking Tires, Audi has partnered with the local government of their hometownÂ Ingolstadt to make their traffic signals smarter. The signals themselves will adapt to traffic patterns to maximize the efficiency of the network. You know how cars seem to move in bunches, or platoons, from one red light to the next? I assume this system would give a green light for the platoon and wait until a gap to switch to red.
The signals are actually communicating with the cars, so they provide the optimal speed at which the cars should be driving to catch the light on green. Unfortunately, at this time it seems to just display the speed on a screen in the dash. The driver is ultimately responsible for whether or not he will follow the suggested speed. We anxiously await the day the vehicles and the traffic signals control the speeds independently. Just bringing the technology as is to this side of the pond wouldnâ€™t hurt, though.
Photo from Kicking Tires.
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