Can bats help us design a better driverless car?

Fruit bats aren’t the first words that comes to mind when you think of driverless cars. But in their nightly forays for fruit and nectar, they routinely solve many of the engineering challenges that have stalled efforts to develop safe, reliable and efficient autonomous vehicles.

The bats’ navigation system was designed by the world’s top engineer: evolution. Michael Yartsev, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Neuroscience, studies the patterns of wiring and firing in the bats’ brains that nature has devised to get them from here to there in the pitch dark. And without flying into obstacles or each other.

The Bakar Fellows Program supports a new effort in his lab to translate the bats’ neurological “rules of the road” into computational algorithms to guide development of navigation systems for driverless cars.

Dr. Yartsev describes the neurobiological principles his lab has uncovered and how the insights may provide a roadmap to the future.