New “Vehicle-to-Everything Communication,” Could Help Cars Become More Environmentally Friendly

We know that driving cars is not great for the environment and we know that taking the bus would help cut down on carbon emissions, but we also know that taking the bus is not always practical or convenient. Thus, many companies are working on ways to make cars more environmentally friendly. Besides electric cars, one solution to this carbon emission issue is to let cars talk to each other.

This idea was born out of recent research from the University of Michigan and California Institute of Technology when they discovered that an autonomous vehicle controlling its speed based on the speeds of multiple cars around it was twenty percent more energy-efficient than it was without those networks.

Today’s “smart” cruise-control features, only respond to the car immediately in front of it. However, if you connect to a broader network of cars through what the researchers call “vehicle-to-everything communication,” the autonomous vehicle was able to slow down using 60 percent less braking force than a human driver.

This occurred because they knew what traffic was coming several cars away, rather than just one car in front of them. Furthermore, the networked cars required less fuel to get back up to speed and were thus more energy efficient. This finding means that if you’re stuck in traffic or coasting down a highway, this technology could give you a smoother, less nauseating, more eco-friendly ride.

Regardless if self-driving cars become widely adopted this technology can start saving fuel now. Even if people were driving all the cars surrounding the autonomous vehicle, the self-driving software was still able to smooth its speed transitions, braking more gently and using less fuel than it would have without the enhanced communication.

In a controlled experiment, human drivers in traffic had to respond to the chain reaction of someone several cars ahead hitting the brakes. Some of the drivers were very heavy on the brakes, quickly decelerating from 55 MPH to a near stop, which subjected the car to a force almost as strong as gravity. However, the autonomous cars had a much smoother experience, with less than half the braking force. Why? Because the self-driving cars were able to predict how the line of cars would behave once it realized that the car in front started to brake.

It goes without saying that using the bus is still more environmentally-conscious than a self-driving car with advanced navigation technology; and although these new communication networks won’t be available on the commercial market any time soon, one good lesson from this research is to ease off the brakes a bit. The environment will thank you.



Image Credit: Metamorworks / Shutterstock


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