Active Walker Model for the Formation of Human and Animal Trail Systems

Physics – Condensed Matter – Statistical Mechanics

Scientific paper

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For related work see http://www.theo2.physik.uni-stuttgart.de/helbing.html and http://summa.physik.hu-berlin.de:80/~frank/in

Scientific paper

10.1103/PhysRevE.56.2527

Active walker models have recently proved their great value for describing the formation of clusters, periodic patterns, and spiral waves as well as the development of rivers, dielectric breakdown patterns, and many other structures. It is shown that they also allow to simulate the formation of trail systems by pedestrians and ants, yielding a better understanding of human and animal behavior. A comparison with empirical material shows a good agreement between model and reality. Our trail formation model includes an equation of motion, an equation for environmental changes, and an orientation relation. It contains some model functions, which are specified according to the characteristics of the considered animals or pedestrians. Not only the kind of environmental changes differs: Whereas pedestrians leave footprints on the ground, ants produce chemical markings for their orientation. Nevertheless, it is more important that pedestrians steer towards a certain destination, while ants usually find their food sources by chance, i.e. they reach their destination in a stochastic way. As a consequence, the typical structure of the evolving trail systems depends on the respective species. Some ant species produce a dendritic trail system, whereas pedestrians generate a minimal detour system. The trail formation model can be used as a tool for the optimization of pedestrian facilities: It allows urban planners to design convenient way systems which actually meet the route choice habits of pedestrians.

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