Why Don’t Ants Get Stuck In Traffic?

Why Don’t Ants Get Stuck In Traffic?


[MUSIC] This episode is supported by Prudential [MUSIC] With more than 7 billion people on Earth and
one car for every six of us, traffic is bad just about everywhere. [HONKING] Last year, American drivers wasted nearly a million collective years staring at each
other’s tail-lights. The average driver in London has it the worst,
spending more than four days a year in gridlock. “There’s Big Ben, kids! Parliament!” But Earth is home to another great commuter,
whose populations number in the trillions, and they don’t get stuck in traffic. An army ant’s day is a lot like ours. Set off in the morning alongside thousands
of our neighbors, moving out and back in neat little lines so we can provide for our brood… I mean family. Crowding, bottlenecks, slowpokes, ants face
the same traffic challenges we do. But they don’t get in traffic jams, which
is why scientists are looking to them for solutions to human traffic. In a perfect world cars could pack in bumper
to bumper and drive at that magic speed, but we’re not perfect. One wrong tap on the gas or brakes, and OH
COME ON! GET MOVING! When speed and density hit a tipping point,
jams are inevitable. Yet in the ant world, traffic jams don’t
happen, even when things get crowded. The easiest solution to an overcrowded road
is to make it bigger. But ants can’t just cut trails as wide as
they want. Wider roads take time and energy to maintain,
and the pheromones that mark them become weaker. Instead, ants get organized. It might not look like it, but there’s lanes
here. Ants headed back to the colony loaded up with
food use the center lane, while outbound ants stay to the edges. Why three lanes and not two, like our roads? When two ants are on a collision course, eventually
one’s gotta give. The loaded inbound ants are less maneuverable,
so the empty-handed ant almost always turns first, half the time to either side. And voila: three lanes, no crashes, no traffic
jams. If you think you’re so different from an
army ant, pay attention next time you’re in a busy crosswalk. We naturally form similar lanes in crowds,
mindless individuals contributing to a larger pattern. But put us behind the wheel, and this happens. [HONKING] There’s a simple reason we hate traffic. Because we hate waiting in line. Queueing up plays weird tricks on our brains’
sense of time. Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied
time. This is why people listen to the radio, or
play that license plate game. And it’s the same reason supermarkets put
magazines in the checkout lines. Ever been late for a big meeting and felt
like the universe is standing in your way? Anxiety makes waits seem longer. Ever been in a traffic jam with no obvious
cause? The worst. Uncertain or unexplained waits are longer
than known or explained waits. But traffic engineers have learned that simple
information signs can change how we experience delays. But more than anything else, we hate unfair
waits. You see a sign that says “lane closed ahead”,
so you get over with plenty of time to spare, only to see some jerk zip past you and get
over at the last second. What… you can’t wait like the rest of
us, Mr. Hurrypants? Quick side note. Gonna let you in on a little secret. Traffic researchers have found that late merging
is actually better. If everyone drives up to the bottleneck and
goes one-by-one like a zipper, traffic moves up to 15% faster. We use both lanes at max capacity, no one
gets cheated, everyone wins! The more you know. And where were we? Oh yeah. Our innate sense of “what’s fair” leads
to the biggest psychological illusion that we experience on the road. Why does traffic always move faster in the
other lane? Well, spoilers first: It doesn’t. Let’s say two cars enter your standard stop-and-go
traffic jam side by side. Let’s count the time each one spends passing
versus getting passed. One driver zips past a few cars in the other
lane, only to stop and wait and watch other cars pass. And then go! WOO HOO! And then wait. Even if the two cars cross some invisible
finish line together, the same way they started, each driver will feel like they spent more
time being passed than passing, because they did. Our brains pay more attention to the losses
than the gains. All of this points to the real problem with
traffic. Our ego. Human drivers care about minimizing their
travel time and don’t give two honks about what other drivers want. Driving slower may be faster for everyone
else, but it’s not faster for me! I don’t care if we all get where we’re
going at the same time, I don’t like being passed! When leaf-cutter ants get stuck on a twig
behind a heavily-loaded slowpoke, do they honk and yell bad ant words? No! They simply slow down and march behind the
ant returning with the goods, because that’s what’s best for the group. Worker ants are all related and working toward
the same goal, the good of the colony. That’s the cooperative genetic programming
that underlies their awesome traffic systems. The fact that we have big, complicated brains
is the very reason that we get stuck in traffic and ants don’t. We think of traffic as something that happens
to us rather than admitting we are the problem. Ants are essentially tiny machines with simple
programming. Put them on a trail with a few rules, allow
individuals to communicate and interact with each other, and voila, you’ve got complex
traffic networks running at near-maximum efficiency. Sound familiar? It should! That’s basically what we’ll get when we
stop letting our egos drive and put traffic in the hands of a network of self-driving
cars optimized to serve the collective good. Sure, sentient machines may enslave humanity,
but at least they’ll cut down on our commute! But that’s a video for another day. Stay curious. Thanks to Prudential for sponsoring this episode. Saving a little more today, even just one
percent more of your annual income, can go a long way toward building a better retirement
tomorrow. Let’s do a math equation. Say a 25 year-old that earns $40,000 a year
is planning on retiring at 70. if they save an additional 1% of their salary by deducting
$33 from their monthly paycheck and earn 6% compounding interest, they could increase
their retirement savings by about $97,944. You can go to RaceForRetirement.com for more
information.

100 thoughts on “Why Don’t Ants Get Stuck In Traffic?”

  1. I know how it seems like ants don't really have to deal with traffic. and I agree, they don't. But there are complications like the limited space of tunnels and holes. In a large crowd, don't humans get stuck?
    Good coordination allows them to file ants in without waste of time and resources.

  2. Pretty weak in that there's a lot more to ants travelling – the fairer comparison is walking vs. driving very different.
    But on another note ants don't have predefined rules and they also don't have designated lanes or anything. The ants are anarchists and are subject to spontaneous order not central command. When it comes to spontaneous order it looks worse on paper but typically is more efficient – human personal flying copters with no lanes no rules no nothing see what comes out of it.

  3. Ants can crawl over each other, they are uniform in behavior, they are on legs, not wheel. They are also not hindered by requirement of the road and laws
    They are collective, they are not all about cutting off every one else

  4. The main reason there are traffic jams on the freeways when there is no accidents is because of selfishness and inconsideration. This type of behavior inhibits cooperation with other drivers and is the direct collective cause of traffic. I've spent a lot of time studying driver habits and conducting experiments and it seems where this specifically comes into play is at the on-ramps. The selfish driver entering the freeway does not follow the courteous and efficient zipper method of merging and will drive right past his given space made by the courteous driver to gain a couple of car lengths and then force his way in while essentially stopping the freeway. And the selfish driver already on the freeway that stays as close as they can to the car in front of them denying any freeway entering car a place to merge and therefore forcing them to eventually wedge their way in which again, brings traffic to a halt. These drivers don't realize that they are only causing more of the problem they are trying to avoid.
    So what can be done? 1. If you are entering a freeway, follow the zipper method. And if someone makes and opening, take it and continue on. 2. If you are already on the freeway leave a cushion of space between you and the car in front of you. That way when someone is entering the freeway they will have plenty of space to merge and it won't cause anybody to slow down. (Important note: When entering a freeway it is essential that you do so at the same rate of speed as traffic is flowing) Although a simple bit of common sense, it apparently isn't very common. In other words, if traffic is flowing at 70mph and you enter the freeway at 40mph then you are stupid and dangerous. And the 3rd thing is to just be a little more courteous and considerate to others. If we all worked together it would dramatically decrease traffic and we could finally be as smart as ants

  5. I realized a long time ago that the Ego of humans is what is keeping us from moving forward. No one likes to have a mistake pointed out or to be called out for something. The ego is a natural defense to rationalize our behavior, and as you well know, people can find a reason to justify any action no matter how evil or wrong or petty it is.

  6. They don't have set little Street off-ramps and on-ramps they turn when they need to turn for whatever they have to pick up at that point if they have something to pick up every 3 in they'll break off at every tree in they won't have to go 6 inch to an off-ramp and come back to whatever they want to pick up

  7. That's why are roads clogged cuz we're not ants and we have to get off our roast at certain points ants don't have to get off their little bro to certain points they leave wherever they see what they need to pick up they don't have to go ten blocks to an off-ramp or a mile or five miles you can turn right there no traffic jam

  8. the double lanes on a drive through really grind my gears. i'll get there first and choose a lane, 3 cars behind me go in the other lane and 9 times out of ten they get served before me and they pull ahead. All i want is a dang coffee!

  9. anyone watched vsauce abt why don't animals have wheels? imo animals deserve wheels more than us. the animal world is competitive, but they are more cooperative than us when there is a need.

  10. What colleges and innovative/intellectual individuals want to know: what came before the big bang?

    What the people really wanna know: BrUH whAt , WhyY do AnTz not GeT StUCk in TrAffIC?!?

  11. Maybe it's because ants are tiny little critters that don't need to follow transit laws of any sort and can just bump into each other or crawl over one another without repercussions.

  12. This doesn't apply to cars, but does apply to large crowds of humans. If you watch pedestrians walking, humans naturally do all of these things as well. If we see somebody carrying something super heavy, we naturally get out of their way.

    Cars can't brush up against one another. There cannot be any physical contact between cars at all. How would ants handle these traffic conditions if say, they would explode on contact?

  13. If you wait until the last minute to cut in front of me I will devote my entire day to driving slow in front of you.

  14. Did no one take in account that they are climbing over one another? Or the fact that ants were “crashing” into each other at 5:15?

  15. Stupid video

    When we walk,
    Humans don't get stuck in traffic?

    How many kms of road ants have?
    What is the surface area of roads available for ants to crawl?

  16. 5:01 "do they honk and yell bad words? no they simply slow down and… " in background you see 2 ants carrying nothing colliding face to face pretty fast.

  17. I so can't wait for self driving cars. I hate driving so much. Don't get me wrong I don't mind driving when the roads are empty but everywhere you go these days it's packed with cars. I'd rather play games, read a book, watch TV/Youtube or do something productive while in transit.

  18. Thats why there are usually mirrors next to elevators. It gives people something to do-fix hair, makeup, see around them-which makes them less impatient and ancious

  19. Ants collide all the time. The paths with least collisions are used more frequently and have a stronger trail. Ants are hardwired to follow stronger trail scents. That is it. There is no intelligence involved, just local optimality.

  20. No matter how often this gets explained, no matter in what format it’s give (video, essay, video essay), it will never change as long as drivers have any kind of choice in the matter. Right in the video is the culprit, paraphrased: “I don’t care if we all get there faster, I only care if I get there faster”. We have some kind of stupid gene built in that makes us do things that are against our own interest. We prefer the illusion of benefit rather than real benefit.

  21. Because they aren't playing with their god damned phones and texting other ants about stupid bullshit! Way to go, ants. You haul that leaf

  22. I don't want to contribute to the "good" of others when I have to be at work on time. Others won't contribute to my delicious steak.

  23. Should do an updated on this one so I can share more recent video when I see my friends saying they never let people in front of them

  24. You didn't really answer your own question in the end, it was so vague. Also ants don't need to avoid collision and can climb over each other.

  25. Ants don't deal with victimization, passive aggression, social engineering trying to keep them feeling offended and powerless. So none of them escape their interior tensions through ignoring the needs of those around them.
    Could be at least a contributing factor…

  26. Its not problem of ego. Ants just know, that if ant is carrying food, they're more important than ants without food. So thay make a way for him. Its similar to ambulance. Everybody will clear way to ambulance, because they know, its important. But they will treat others casually, because you can't know, if their reason to travel is more important than their own. Yes, it can be more fluent and efficient, but its not because ego.

  27. I think I might know why unoccupied time feels longer than it is and it feels like time flies when your having fun. Possibly it’s because when your waiting or just bored you focus more on how much time is passing. When your having fun you get absorbed into the activity causing your brain to not really keep track of time.

  28. Great and utopic… BUT ands come from the same place, and go for sources to the same place, and done, no side routes… unlike us…

  29. Great vidddiesss. Except when I get bored I mentally make marks of where I am relative to other vehicles… in the daily traffic of the CA Los Angeles 405/5 freeway startin 3pm til 8pm… anyways. I actually noticed some lanes hadpretty dumb impatient drivers & slower people…. & I do my best to choose what I think is the “best”lane & like I noticed almost everyone falls for that psychological trick about the other lane moving faster…. so I end up going so much further than all the other car markers I make! & faster! I went quicker mainly cause I didn’t keeep changing lanes. That usually backfires on you! I been driving in this traffic since 2011… & been doing my little tests since. As I get older I get more patience & kinda enjoy performing little tests lol. Most the time anyways….0.0

  30. Also, I feel I speak for all Americans here when I say that I refuse to have a self driving car until they program the fuckers to swerve around potholes and go at least 30 m/h over. Can't justify spending a boatload of money on a douchemobile that'll wreck its own suspension within an hour of hitting the wonderful Michigan roads… and if the car is doing 12 billion computations every second, it can safely speed. If that's untrue, then why waste the money?

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