Researchers Testing Eco-Speed Control System

Traffic LightEverybody knows the fundamentals of eco driving, which at its simplest is piloting a car in a way that conserves fuel – don’t stomp on the gas pedal to accelerate, don’t slam on the brakes to stop, make sure the tires are inflated properly.

But today’s technology networks promise much greater fuel savings than those gained by individuals modifying their driving habits. What if traffic could flow better at traffic lights, eliminating much of the stopping, starting and idling altogether, especially in areas with buses? What if vehicles could communicate with each other to reduce congestion and accidents?

Researchers at Morgan State University and Virginia Tech are developing and testing a dynamic Eco-Speed Control (ESC) system, designed to reduce fuel consumption at intersections, which computes the optimum vehicle trajectories of traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles (HEVS) and buses.

“This project will be looking at coordinated signals to adjust driving, and it will focus on buses, since they’re a major contributor to congestion,” Dr. Celeste Chavis, one of the principle investigators at Morgan, says.

The ESC system will consider traffic conditions, the type of powertrain, and the state of the battery charge in electric vehicles. The team is developing ESC algorithms for HEVs and buses using predictive energy estimation models to identify optimum speed profiles using information from the surrounding vehicles and upcoming signalized intersections.

The project, “Eco-Speed Control for Hybrid Electric Vehicles and Buses in the Vicinity of Signalized Intersections,” is funded through the Mid-Atlantic Transportation Sustainability University Transportation Center. Dr. Chavis and Dr. Mansoureh Jeihani, co-principle investigator at Morgan, will use Morgan’s Safety and Behavioral Analysis Center, which has two state-of-the-art driving simulators, to implement and test the proposed ESC algorithms under different conditions and speeds. Dr. Hesham Rakha and Dr. Hao Chen will be conducting field tests of the system at Virginia Tech’s Smart Road test facility.

“We will use the driving simulator to look at the effect of signal timing if you don’t provide information to the driver vs. if you do provide information to the driver,” Dr. Chavis says. “If you know that there is no chance you will catch the light, maybe you won’t speed up.”

“We are telling the cars and drivers how to drive to have the minimum emissions impact,” Dr. Jeihani says. “We will study how people react – do they really listen to the information? How frequently is the information provided? We will test different scenarios.”

In the future connected infrastructure could control the speed of the car through the car’s cruise control, dictating a speed that ensures a smooth traffic flow through the intersections.

 “We are looking at ways like connected vehicles where you can actually control the car,” Dr. Chavis says.

The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2017.