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Clever cars? We ‘aint seen nothing yet March 9, 2009

Posted by Richard Aucock in What I've mused upon today.
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Land Rover, Orange and the Ordnance Survey aren’t known for being particularly complementary bedfellows.

But, with the TRL smoothing the waters, they’ve come up with something that’ll make yet another potential big difference to car CO2 emissions. The Sentience test bed.

This is the Clever Car. It uses smart sat nav to plot a route, see what traffic conditions are ahead, moderating engine accordingly. Clever, aye? You’re suspicious. Well, (for now) fear not. This is not (intended to be) ‘dumb waiter’ style speed restriction.

clever-cars-we-aint-seen-nothing-yetRather, it is the car using adaptive cruise control to idealise the acceleration and deceleration – as per traffic up ahead, the necessary speed gain needed to scoot between point and – get this – counter the gradient of the road in the most eco way possible.

Like the driver who looks ahead, and adjusts the throttle accordingly, rather than the less clever ‘point ‘n squirt. Oh, and then brake’ merchant.

Orange provides the ‘net-enabled telecommunications, but it’s OS’s mapping data, detailing gradient, bens in the road, roundabouts, even speed bumps, that really gives it intelligence.

An example. Green drivers know that accelerating at the bottom of the hill creates momentum for ascending it. So, uses less fuel. This is what the Sentience car does. Ingenious. And generating claimed fuel savings of nearly a quarter.

What’s more, with real-time navigation systems, it can alter profiles according to traffic flow as well as road conditions up ahead. It can even vary and restrict speed, according to the probability of something slowing the car at a junction up ahead, and meter speed for best flow through traffic lights.

There’s been a lady from Brake today, banging on across all the news channels that speed kills. Yes, speed. Not a single other factor, just speed. Make everyone drive at the speed limit and accidents will be cut to zero.

What utter guff. Luckily, companies such as this quartet are being a damn sight more intelligent, and developing mobile comm cars that will both save the world and a few lives in the process.

Their only problem is, the degree of autonomy they’re calling upon drivers to hand over. With the Brake woman in mind, that’s maybe a debate for another day…

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