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 Was It Designed?

Fish Schooling

Fish Schooling

Car accidents kill more than one million people and injure approximately 50 million each year. Yet, millions of fish can swim together in a school with virtually no collisions. How do fish do it, and what can they teach us about how to reduce car crashes?

Consider: Schooling fish learn about their surroundings through their eyes and a special sense organ called the lateral line. They use these senses to perceive the location of other fish around them, and they then react as follows:

  1. Traveling side by side. They match the speed of the fish beside them and maintain their distance from them.
  2. Approaching. They draw nearer to fish that are farther away.
  3. Collision avoidance. They change direction to avoid contact with other fish.

Based on those three behaviors of schooling fish, a Japanese car manufacturer designed several tiny robot cars that can travel in a group without colliding. Instead of eyes, the robots use communication technologies; instead of a lateral line, they use a laser range finder. The company believes that this technology will help them to create “collision-free” cars and “contribute to an environmentally friendly and traffic-jam-free driving environment.”

“We recreated the behavior of a school of fish [by] making full use of cutting-edge electronic technologies,” says Toshiyuki Andou, the principal engineer of the robot-car project. “We, in a motorized world, have a lot to learn from the behavior of a school of fish.”

What do you think? Did fish schooling come about as the result of a mindless process? Or was it designed?