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Green Eco Routing, Navigation and your car computer

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by , 06-16-2009 at 10:50 AM (2508 Views)

Some intelligent forward thinking researchers over at Hitachi, Xanavi, and Nissan have collected some data on ecological green routing that claims a 9% fuel cost savings on a test route. This technology is still in its infancy, but this is a perfect example of where a car computer can be used to accelerate development and deployment of technology. Implementing ecorouting will require Intense processing on the client or cloud for the complicated routing algorithms that factor in all the newly available data points:

Traffic & Flow speeds

Elevation changes and altitude

Road quality (smooth vs. rough)

Wind (eventually)

The cloud or development computer can also be used to coach the driver into more efficient acceleration and braking techniques which a lot of hyper milers are already using.

Eventually I imagine this type of data would help local governments prioritize road resurfacings and traffic control timings to help their citizenry become greener.

It seems like one of the key pieces to making this work would be accurate elevation Data. The paper I mentioned above used 50m resolution data from the government. One of the key data providers for elevation data seems to be intermap with 5m horizontal resolution and +/1 1m vertical. Check out their comparison chart to NASA data.

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Updated 09-17-2009 at 03:59 PM by optikalefx

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The best that go together.
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Let me be clear...

I don't think this is a bad idea at all.
I see that it's in its infancy and needs development. I'm stating what I perceive as potential pitfalls to such a system.

The other thing that piques my curiosity is their claim of a 9% fuel savings. How much of that was due to the route that the system chose as "greener" and how much was due to different driving techniques aimed at fuel conservation?

AS a hypothetical example, you take the less eco-friendly route and drive like a madman (or madwoman) with lots of sudden starts and stops and mashing the gas pedal to the floor each time you accelerate, along with keeping revs as high as possible.
When you take the greener route, you drive in a fuel conservation mode, keeping revs lower and using gentle acceleration and coasting to a stop instead.

So why is there fuel savings on the "green" route? Is it because of the smoother roads and less stopping or is it because the driver consciously drove with fuel savings in mind?

Yes, their system is coaching the driver to drive more conservatively, and that plays into it. However, I don't think the route choice is the more significant factor in their fuel conservation, at least not in my hypothetical example.

Frankly, to achieve a 9% fuel savings as they claim, I'd think the driving style would have to be pretty radically different. Nine percent is quite a bit, especially over a long distance, say a couple hundred miles.

There are other potential issues that plays into this that I was discussing with someone else:

A system like this could very well route someone through more rural areas. All in all, this isn't bad, but there are some small communities that could take real issue with increased traffic from drivers using such a system. I don't know what sort of political backlash there could/would be (especially since this isn't even a system in production!), but there certainly could be some.

In addition, increased vehicle traffic in an already fragile ecosystem (protected wetlands, for example) could damage those ecoystems even further from vehicle emissions, fluid leakage, increased noise, temperature differences from hot engines.

Then there are the indirect consequences from vehicle traffic such as litter, pieces of car parts strewn about after the first accident, issues with vehicles and wildlife comingling, and so on. One thoughtless driver flicks a cigarette butt out of a window and starts a fire that takes out dozens or hundreds of acres. We'd all like to believe that someone attempting to drive "eco-friendly" wouldn't do such a thing, but it invariably happens. If not a cigarette butt, then dry grass under a hot exhaust.

I admit that I'm playing the role of devil's advocate here.
Not every technological innovation is the next great thing. I certainly see the potential in something like this, but it also needs to be thought through as much as possible.
How about an incentive for driving green? In exchange for following the green route or green driving style, perhaps you are entered into a contest to receive cash prizes. Or qualify for a rebate or tax reduction. Maybe you get a % of a carbon tax that is applied to others who don't drive green.

There's lots of ways to incentivize people to do things that also result in a social good. You don't even have to be the government to do it. What if Exxon teamed up with Toyota and did an incentive back program or cash prize entry in exchange for selling their gas and cars? Who knows what might happen!