Energy Dept. serves-up $30M for future connected, automated cars

Advanced NEXTCARS will utilize networks; algorithms to create the “perfect” energy efficient ride

vehicle to infrastructure
Example of vehicle-to-infrastructure application provided through roadside equipment Credit: GAO analysis of Department of Transportation

Developing advanced auto communications and automation is the central notion behind a new $30 million project announced today by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

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The program, known as NEXTCAR or NEXT-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated on-Road vehicles will develop technology that will result in a 20% reduction in the energy consumption of future so-called Connected and Automated Vehicles, compared to vehicles without these technologies, ARPA-E stated.

“Developments in connectivity and automation will allow vehicles in the future to operate in a range of cooperative modes with other surrounding vehicles. While such cooperative behavior has been the subject of much recent research, the full potential of improved powertrain control on the subsequent composite energy efficiency of a group of vehicles undertaking cooperative vehicle behavior has not yet been fully explored, the agency stated. “The focus of the ARPA-E NEXTCAR program is on increasing the energy efficiency of each individual vehicle in the automotive fleet, through the improvement of vehicle dynamic and powertrain control, by utilizing emerging technologies and strategies in sensing, communications, information, decision-making, control and automation.”

ARPA-E says it is envisions that in the future, the total reduction in energy consumption of an individual vehicle will be due to some combination of:

• Improved on-board powertrain controls (with improved real or virtual sensing and/or the use of Vehicle-to-Vehicle [(V2V)-equipped cars emit data on their speed, position, heading, acceleration, size, brake status and other connectivity.

• Improved vehicle-level dynamic controls (using real or virtual sensing and/or the use of V2V connectivity).

• The utilization of new control system inputs from external sources, external optimization, or surrounding collaborating vehicles, and

• The ability to operate in a fully automated mode, thereby removing the effect of the human driver from the vehicle and powertrain control systems.

From a control point of view, vehicles currently operate in isolation as a collection of single ‘selfish’ entities, even in dense traffic.

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From ARPA-E:One promising enabling technology underlying future vehicle and powertrain control is the development of model-based control algorithms and systems – this will allow powertrain control to be fully predictive and forward-looking, and enhance the effect of real and virtual feedback, as well as utilizing a range of additional information available through connectivity.

For example, connectivity might allow a vehicle to “know” with some certainty about its future operation across some planned route with respect to the anticipated profiles of acceleration, deceleration, braking (or regeneration) and grade climbing. This look-ahead or preview information can be used in conjunction with the vehicle and powertrain control models to optimize the vehicle energy efficiency over a portion of a trip, or indeed in the case of the availability of “perfect” information, over a full, extended trip.

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