Locusts inspire Newcastle crash warning study

Locusts have a warning system that has inspired scientists at Newcastle University Credit: AAP AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS/AAP/Press Association Images

Locusts have inspired scientists from the universities of Lincoln and Newcastle to create new technology which could help to prevent car crashes.

The scientists have discovered the insect has a fast and accurate warning system which enables it to detect approaching objects and avoid them when in flight or on the ground.

Based on these findings, the scientists have created a computer system which they believe could become a blueprint for highly-accurate collision sensors in cars.

Professor Shigang Yue, from the University of Lincoln's school of computer science, said:

"We were inspired by the way the locusts' visual system works when interacting with the outside world and the potential to simulate such complex systems in software and hardware for various applications.

"We created a system inspired by the locusts' motion sensitive interneuron - the lobula giant movement detector. This system was then used in a robot to enable it to explore paths or interact with objects, effectively using visual input only."

The research was carried out as part of a collaborative project with the University of Hamburg in Germany and Tsinhua University and Xi'an Jiaotong University in China.

It is hoped the research will help to develop collision avoidance systems in vehicles.

Dr Claire Rind, from Newcastle University's institute for neuroscience, said:

"While some collision-avoidance features are pricey options on luxury cars, their performance is not always as good as it could be - and they come at a high cost.

"This research offers us important insights into how we can develop a system for the car which could improve performance to such a level that we could take out the element of human error."