Bugs and Cars Colliding

Bugs and Cars Colliding

When I go on a summer road trip, I always return with hundreds of insects smashed on the front of my car. Those bug remains are a real challenge to remove. So why don’t those little critters have enough brains to get out of the way? Bugs and cars colliding is a great summertime nuisance.

Okay, I know those insects that lost their lives playing a game of chicken with my vehicle don’t have very big brains – if they have any at all. I also realize that my car is much bigger than they are and probably traveling at a faster speed, so it’s hard for them to get out of the way. I also realize that the consequences of our brief encounter are much more tragic for them than it is for me. But I have never seen two bugs crashing into each other in mid-air. They can swarm in great numbers and never crash and fall from the sky. They must have some kind of collision avoidance system.

God gave insects the ability to avoid collisions with each other long before cars entered the scene. That fact led scientists at Penn State University to do some research on bugs and cars colliding. They probably can’t do much to give bugs the ability to avoid cars, but they wanted to give cars the ability to avoid hitting each other. Since bugs somehow avoid mid-air collisions with such skill, can their technology be applied to cars?

Even though only a fourth of driving occurs in the dark, half of all traffic fatalities happen at night. (It’s also when many insect species are most active, but that’s beside the point.) Present vehicle technologies for avoiding collisions use Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) or image sensors running sophisticated software. The systems are expensive and use lots of energy. The researchers wrote, “…task-specific obstacle avoidance algorithms allow insects to reap substantial benefits in terms of size and energy.” They wanted to learn how the bugs do it with tiny brains and micro-energy.

We have often talked about how scientists studying God’s creatures and creation have discovered ways to accomplish tasks more effectively and efficiently. For example, this new research shows ways to avoid vehicle collisions in a simpler, less expensive, and more energy-efficient way using a new algorithm based on the neural circuits of bugs.

God told Job, “If you want to learn, then go and ask the wild animals and the birds, the flowers and the fish. Any of them can tell you what the Lord has done” (Job 12:7-9 CEV). This research may not solve the problem of bugs and cars colliding, but it can help to solve the much more dangerous problem of cars colliding with other cars. Of course, you will still have to keep the scrub brush and bucket of cleanser handy.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

References: acs.org and popsci.com