Inspired by ant behavior, researchers at Aston University in Birmingham have developed software to solve citywide fleet routing problems and contribute to cleaner air by reducing toxic emissions.
The new technology is based on a method called “route optimization” to intelligently direct fleets of vehicles from the same company around a city, cutting emissions in half while saving time and fuel.
To develop the software, the researchers’ team used a technique that mimics the way ants solve problems and search for food.
In a typical ant colony, each ant keeps a record of the best solution it has found alone, then passes this knowledge to the other ants. This knowledge is spread throughout the colony and updates its know-how library. This way of working is similar to algorithms, explains this Smart City Press report.
The ant behavior helped researchers develop a smart algorithm by decreasing the number of decisions they make so that it can solve citywide fleet routing problems.
The software, which can be installed on a laptop, allows business owners to use the system to manage their own journeys based on their daily needs. The algorithm also schedules tasks for vehicles in a fleet and helps them navigate.
In a trial with Birmingham fleet operators, scientists were able to reduce CO2 emissions by 4.25 kilograms per van every day and reduce emissions such as nitrous oxide by 98 grams per van per day.
When tested on a company performing external maintenance tasks at a customer’s property, 50% of more savings were seen compared to the company’s original time spent on the road.
The technology also helped the company make equal savings in their fuel costs, raise profit margins while cutting emissions by half.