UC Riverside (UCR) has received a $1.2 million grant from the United States Department of Energy to fund the development of a comprehensive driver feedback technology for passenger cars and fleet vehicles. The proposed device will promote fuel efficiency and reduce harmful fuel emissions.
The three-year project will be primarily located at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology at UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, where it will build on many of their smaller “eco-driving” studies. Their previous studies suggested fuel economy improvements in the 5 to 15 percent range, with a potential fuel-use reduction of up to 30 percent.
The proposed feedback system will include software that can plan and route fuel-efficient trips, improve fuel utilization while driving and report on real-time roadway and traffic conditions.
“By the end of the third year we will [hopefully] have results that we can give to the vehicle manufacturers, and they can take that information and use it when they build their cars and navigation units,” said Matthew Barth, the principal investigator of this study and the director of UCR’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology. “They can incorporate the effective things into what they are doing now.”
The first year of the project will be spent on finalizing the algorithms, while the last two years will focus on testing the technology in vehicles.
UC Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) will also be involved in the public side of the project, conducting research on driving behavior.
“The effectiveness of the interactive driver feedback will depend, in large part, on user perception of the information provided and the degree to which drivers pay attention to the efficiency feedback device,” said Susan Shaheen, co-director of TSRC.
The analysis at TSRC will consist of evaluating driver perceptions through a series of “before” and “after” surveys, and having experts provide feedback on the device design.
Shaheen also wants to collect survey information on “baseline attitudes towards the fuel costs, the environment and energy security,” she said. Surveys will also collect information on the fleet drivers’ response to the feedback device.
Riverside Transit and the California Department of Transportation will provide the fleet vehicles that will be used or tested. Private enterprises such as Esri and Navteq will also be collaborating on the project alongside small private companies such as Beat the Traffic, Earthrise Technology and Automatiks.
This UCR research study is one of the 40 projects receiving federal grant money from a $175 million Department of Energy program. The program is directed at developing and deploying new technology to meet new fuel efficiency standards.
In a July address, President Obama announced that automakers will be required to increase fuel economy for cars and light duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. American families are projected to save an average of $8000 per vehicle.
To improve one’s fuel economy now, Barth suggests that drivers do not accelerate too quickly, to slow down when approaching stops and to use the internet to check for congestion.
“Basically, just drive smoother,” Barth said. “There are static, general rules of thumb you can do, but a large part of this research is to provide real-time information. If we have that real-time information on traffic jams, that will be helpful.”
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