How Scientists in Israel Are Teaching Goldfish to ‘Drive’ Robotic Vehicles

Scientists at Israel's Ben Gurion University are teaching goldfish how to drive tiny robotic tanks by using food.

Who would be the scariest behind the wheel in a highway full of drivers? Children? Primates? How about a goldfish?

Scientists at Israel's Ben Gurion University have taught goldfish how to drive tiny robotic tanks.

Fish don't drive cars. So we had to train them to understand what we want them to do,” Professor Ohad Ben-Shahar said. And the easiest way to train a goldfish — or any animal really — is with food. 

The fish tank has been equipped with LIDAR, a technology used in some self-driving cars, that scans an area using eye-safe laser beams, a computer and a camera. And the fish have been enticed to direct their watery vehicle toward a pink rectangle on the wall.

And Ben-Shahar explains that crashes aren’t a concern.

“We equipped the water tank with sensors,” he said. “So it doesn't collide with obstacles in the environment, in case the fish decides to get too close to a wall.

“But also with the camera that can sense where the fish is in the water tank and guides the vehicle according to that pause of the fish in the tank," he continued.

It’s funny to see a fish driving a vehicle, but this study does have scientific merit. Ben-Shahar and his team believe the ability to navigate is a universal trait and that fish can do far more than most think.

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