Sentience driving software can control a car or trucks acceleration and braking and enable 5-24% fuel savings and could be installed in vehicles starting in 2012. It is also a transition path to completely robotic driving. For about $30 to install ion each car or truck the system would save an average of 14% of fuel usage.
In evening tests on public roads in ‘real-world’ conditions in the vicinity of TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), achieved mean savings at all times in excess of 5 per cent.
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The wide variation in the numbers comes from the type of car — hybrid vehicles will save more fuel than those with internal combustion engines alone — and from the driver’s driving style.
On an empty road with no other vehicles, the Sentience system could completely control a vehicle.
With other cars on the road, the driver must control acceleration and braking because the Sentience system is not equipped with the real-time location of all the other vehicles on the road. Future versions of Sentience could be, said Overton, although no final decision on that possibility has been made.
The other option is to have Sentience, or a program like it, installed on every car on the road, said Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Joseph Sussman, an expert on intelligent automotive systems.
Tom Robinson, leader of the Sentience project, said that journeys might take a couple of minutes longer but drivers would accept this in return for safer journeys and cheaper fuel bills. A driver who spends about £50 a week to fill their fuel tank would save more than £500 a year.
By being able to anticipate red lights and congestion well before the driver can see them, cars can brake smoothly and minimise fuel consumption. The driver simply steers the car, keeping his feet well away from the brake and accelerator pedals, overriding the system only in an emergency, such as a pedestrian suddenly stepping out.
An analysis of potential total UK fuel saving of 14 per cent, equating to between 1.2 and 2.9 million barrels of oil per year. The UK uses about 570,000 barrel of gas/diesel per day. The USA uses 4.2 million barrels of gas/diesel per day.
Sentience represents a potentially very low cost of implementation. In a vehicle already equipped with a phone and GPS (e.g. for a navigation system) then no additional hardware would be needed for a production implementation. If these systems were not pre-installed, then the project team estimates that these functions could be provided for a unit cost of around €20 in high volumes. Extra control and integration software would be needed but the processing and storage needs would be modest and likely to be readily integrated into almost any existing vehicle architecture. The availability of high resolution mapping would be a prerequisite for implementation but given the increased availability of such data, the project team estimate that a Sentience based system could be put into production in approximately 3-4 years based on technology availability for model year development programmes in around 18 months.
The Sentience system uses a GPS-equipped smart phone, on the cellular phone network Orange, to determine the vehicle’s position. Wireless Bluetooth technology links the phone to the other piece of hardware necessary for Sentience, the r-cube, developed by the Ricardo company. The r-cube controls the vehicle’s acceleration and braking.
For the initial tests, the Sentience team used an imported Ford Escape hybrid.
The maps generated by Ordnance Survey include everything from speed bumps to school zones. When a Sentience-equipped vehicle approaches, say, a roundabout, the software automatically slows the vehicle down enough to take the turn. Once the turn is complete, the software then accelerates the vehicle in the most fuel-efficient way.