The flood of available data from many sources – traffic updates, GPS, onboard sensors, etc. – will change the ways in which we’ll get around in the coming years. One tangible manifestation, happening now, is predictive navigation.
From Google to Bosch to Volkswagen, a range of companies in the automotive and technology industries are starting to harness the power data to provide personalized real-time guidance and enhanced vehicle control that could lead to reduced congestion and fuel consumption – and, eventually, to hybrid powertrains that automatically adjust the balance between battery and engine output based on upcoming terrain.
Go This Way
Data about where and when we travel and how fast we go is collected through a combination of built-in systems, such as General Motors’ OnStar and Hyundai’s BlueLink, and brought-in systems, specifically smartphone apps. Every time a driver launches a navigation app, such as Waze, Google Maps, or TomTom, information about speed and location is transmitted back to the cloud and aggregated with other factors, such as weather forecasts, construction sites, and local events, to determine where backups are occurring or are likely to occur and to provide real-time feedback. The macro data can be combined with local data about individual driver habits to automatically provide alerts about traffic backups and alternate routes before you turn the key.
Google has provided these predictive alerts for more than 2 years as part of the Google Now functionality on Android phones. At a recent innovation workshop at its Wolfsburg, Germany headquarters, Volkswagen showed off its own in-car solution to provide alternative route suggestions even when drivers don’t need to use the navigation for common destinations. Other automakers, including General Motors, have been testing solutions for plug-in electric vehicles, like the Chevrolet Volt, that will automatically preserve electric power for the last portion of a drive home through a residential area or even use up some of the low-charge buffer when the system predicts it will be plugged in soon.
Shortest Is Not Necessarily Most Efficient
Mercedes-Benz is now utilizing topographic map data as an input to the plug-in hybrid powertrain available in its S500 luxury sedan. When the system detects that the vehicle is approaching the crest of hill, it will automatically shift the power distribution away from the internal combustion engine to the electric motor and then recover energy to the battery on the downhill side. Ford has been researching eco-routing solutions for both plug-in and traditional vehicles that will calculate routes that use less total energy even though they may cover more total distance.
Everyone that drives in urban areas is well aware of the frustrations of sitting through several cycles of a traffic light while trying to make a left turn. For the past decade, package delivery company UPS has been using big data and electronic maps to provide its drivers with customized daily routes specifically designed to keep left-turns to a minimum. By using right turns whenever possible, even if it means going further, UPS had saved more than 10 million gallons of gasoline and reduced carbon emissions by 100,000 metric tons by 2012.
Tags: Clean Transportation, Electric Vehicles, Mobile & Wireless, Smart Transportation Program
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