“Waggle dance” route planning???

I did a double-take when I read this article yesterday.

Solving route planning is among the most important problems in the transportation industry. The dilemma is often framed in context of the so-called traveling salesman problem: What is the fastest way for a salesman to make multiple stops in multiple cities?

. . .

Routific, like many companies, has turned to the natural world for solutions. Driving its proprietary software is a popular algorithm based on the famous foraging behavior of honeybees, in which returning bees perform a waggle dance in front of other bees in the hive to indicate where a promising flower patch resides. As more bees flock to that particular spot, Kuo explained, they start branching out to other locations, ultimately optimizing a route for the entire colony.

A well-known method, the bee algorithm alone isn’t sufficient for real-world application, Kuo said, and Routific’s proprietary software is an evolution of that heuristic.

. . .

Offering up a case study, Kuo said a customer with 20 trucks in California, delivering 2,500 packages a day, was able to reduce its fleet by five trucks and saved $200,000 annually simply by optimizing the routes.

There’s more at the link.

Clearly, I have a warped mind.  I can’t help imagining a delivery truck coming back to the depot or warehouse, then (as soon as its driver has entered the building) doing a waggle dance in front of the other trucks, to tell them which way to go next!

This could cause complications.  For example, would a Nissan or Toyota truck do the waggle dance in interpretive Japanese steps (or turns)?  And would a GM or Ford truck understand it?  Inquiring minds want to know!



  1. Actually, the first thing to my mind was a bunch of overweight truckers with plumber's crack doing a waggle dance for their mates as soon as they arrived back at the warehouse…:-p

  2. This isn't the only example of optimization by studying insect behaviour. Earlier, ant colony behavior creating trails to food were studied as a way to optimize computer problems that didn't have a simple solution. One real world example was SUN using this algorithm in optimizing their network routing code, sending packets via the most efficient path to their destination.

  3. Amusing visuals aside, this is pretty cool. And my students have the nerve to ask "when are we ever going to use this?" when I try to teach them math.

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