Ars Electronica 2007
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Digital Pheromones
Self-Organization in Traffic Networks

' Ars Electronica Futurelab Ars Electronica Futurelab

A biochemical method of communication through the use of scents by creatures of the same species is being utilized in the Digital Pheromones project as a technical approach to optimizing vehicle routing in street traffic networks. This R&D project being conducted by Siemens Corporate Technology in cooperation with the Ars Electronica Futurelab and Johannes Kepler University Linz is based on the fundamental principle of bionics. It takes the idea of the collective intelligence of ant colonies as a model of natural self-organization in order to distribute traffic volume in a way that best utilizes the full capacity of a city’s network of streets and to optimally route individual motorists.

Ants leave behind scents called pheromones that show ants coming after them the path to a food source. The digital counterparts of these pheromones are flows of data based on the amount of time a motorist needs to cover a particular distance. Collecting all the digital pheromones of individual motorists on a virtual city map generates a continually updated picture of the traffic situation in the entire street network. Each vehicle selects its route on the basis of an assessment of the current pheromone landscape.

Siemens Corporate Technology in cooperation with Johannes Kepler University of Linz: Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik— Software Engineering, Institut für Pervasive Computing and Ars Electronica Futurelab. Siemens Corporate Technology: Dieter Kolb, Reiner Müller, Dr. Jan Wieghardt; University of Linz: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Gustav Pomberger, Univ.-Prof. Dr. Alois Ferscha, Dr.Wolfgang Narzt, Oliver Seimel, Ursula Wilflingseder; Ars Electronica Futurelab: Horst Hörtner, Roland Haring, Christopher Lindinger, Karl Schmidinger, Leonhardt Immervoll, Matthias Petzold; Kindly supported by: Reinhold Achatz, Klaus Beetz.