Some time ago, many countries were plagued by locust plagues. Hundreds of billions of locusts cross the border, sweeping through all the food crops that can have crops. But some researchers have found something strange, with such a large density of locusts rarely colliding, that it seems that locusts can effectively escape. Penn State, on the other hand, was inspired by this feature to develop low-power collision detectors that allow drones and self-driving cars to mimic locusts’ collision avoidance and reduce accidents.
Locusts are known to have a special kind of neuron in their bodies, which scientists call the Small Leaf Giant Motion Detector (LGMD).
Under the action of this neuron, when a locust (locust A) is flying, if other locusts (locust B) are close, its image is mapped to its eyes, and the closer the locust B is, the stronger the signal that stimulates the neuron.
More crucially, the neuron can also analyze changes in the angle velocity of locust B relative to locust A to avoid collisions while avoiding.
Based on the study, the team developed a nano-sized collision detector that uses a small amount of energy to simulate the neuron response of locusts, responding to oncoming objects by increasing currents.
The difficulty with the study, however, is that locusts can only avoid colliding with other locusts, while self-driving cars have to avoid not only other cars, but also other objects such as pedestrians and roadblocks.
However, under the control of the algorithm, the chance of misrecognized operation is greatly reduced. Currently, the detector can react within two seconds of feeling the object.
Although it is not yet enough to change direction between locusts within hundreds of milliseconds, but also has a certain practical value. Moreover, the sensor has a small energy consumption and can work together with other sensors, resulting in greater efficiency.
Today, self-driving technology has become the automotive industry, the next trillion-dollar market, and any small technological advances in the industry may bring huge synergies.
It remains to be seen when the “locust sensor” will be able to get out of the lab and load the vehicle.