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Smarter Cruise Control Can Boost Hybrid Fuel Economy and Safety

Simulations show how adaptive cruise control can boost the energy efficiency and safety of plug-in hybrid cars

2 min read
Smarter Cruise Control Can Boost Hybrid Fuel Economy and Safety
Photo: iStockphoto

Many of today’s cars use adaptive cruise control technology to automatically adjust driving speed and keep a safe distance from vehicles on the road ahead. But a new study shows how automotive engineers could improve on adaptive cruise control technology to boost energy efficiency alongside vehicle safety

The new version of the technology, called ecological adaptive cruise control, could theoretically boost the energy efficiency of a Toyota Prius hybrid by up to 19 percent. A Canadian engineering team developed the system to incorporate data on road turns or traffic conditions—captured by an onboard vehicle sensor—so that it could maximize both safe driving and fuel economy. The concept was tested in computer simulations and detailed in the January issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Such simulations showed that adaptive cruise control technology could squeeze the most energy savings during low-traffic conditions with relatively few vehicles on the road. During congested traffic conditions, the system mainly focused on safe driving around all the other cars rather than trying to boost energy efficiency.

Another simulated driving scenario involving going up and down a hill. In that case, the system chose to speed up the car before going uphill in order to get a 15 percent saving in energy costs.

The Canadian engineers also had to design the system to account for the two different sources of energy in plug-in hybrids: gas engines and electric motors. Other researchers have tried improving adaptive cruise control to boost fuel economy, but such work has typically focused on the simpler challenge of gas-powered vehicles.

Better adaptive cruise control represents just one of several smart car systems that could help drivers save on fuel and energy in the coming years. A recent report found that “micro-hybrid” car technology—capable of automatically stopping and restarting car engines during idle periods—could potentially do the most in helping automakers boost vehicle efficiency to meet future fuel economy standards.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-range radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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