Treehugger wrote a good piece on how biologist Janine Benyus wants to take her work in Biomimicry to the city. Biomimicry, if you are not familiar with the term, looks at nature in order to apply some of the ways the natural world functions to manmade products or systems. One well known example of biomimcry would be robotics, where robots are often modeled after living creatures. The concept can and has been applied to other fields as well.
Transportation, for instance, could learn from ants. Ants in a trail travel in close proximity to one another at a pretty consistent distance, and never seem to get lost. They use pheromones to communicate with each other and mark their trail. If we made our transportation systems like this, with vehicles communicating with each other and with the guideway, they might see improvements in efficiency. Some of these aspects are being researched in systems like IntelliDrive, but no word yet on whether the ants provided any input on these automobile communication systems.
Hit up the link for more info on the areas Janine Benyus wants to tackle. The article doesn’t discuss transportation so much as environmental, landscape, and building aspects, but transportation is inseparable from the city and will inevitably need addressing in any projects she participates in. Janine mentioned in the article that the question being asked in applying biomimicry to cities is, “How can you have a city perform like an ecosystem?” Chew on that thought for awhile.
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