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Volvo looks to locusts

Ah, grasshopper: Volvo says Locusts could help improve safety. Maybe.

Volvo studies the impact-avoidance ability of locusts, and other left-field matters

Volvo logo22 Sep 2008

IT'S the kind of press release that is usually sent out on April 1.

Volvo says it has been looking at the way locusts avoid bumping into each other.

It hopes it can learn from the insect’s avoidance technique and somehow replicate that in a car.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, Volvo is predicting this could take some time.

Volvo preventative safety leader Jonas Ekmark said: “We still have many more years of research ahead to bring that small locust brain into our cars.”

While it reeks of a wind-up, Volvo insists it is actually looking at locust biology for answers to collision avoidance.

Here is Mr Ekmark again: “We learned of Dr Claire Rind’s, Newcastle University, UK, studies into the migratory African Locust, which showed that they tend to avoid bumping into each other during flights,” he said.

“Our original thoughts centred on pedestrian safety. If we could trace how the locusts are able to avoid each other maybe we could program our cars not to hit pedestrians.”

Dr Rind explained why locusts could be of interest to car companies.

“Locusts are quick reacting and have reliable circuits, they do their computations against lots of background chatter, much like driving around town,” Dr Rind said.

But alas for now it seems car-makers are unable to replicate locust behaviour.

“As it turns out, the locust processing system is much more sophisticated than the hardware/software currently available,” said Mr Ekmark.

“In the end technology was no match for nature.”

Mr Ekmark said Volvo would continue to study locusts and isn’t ruling out other left-field studies.

“We will continue to follow interesting paths in our efforts to reach our safety vision - to design cars that do not crash,” he said.

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