While modern in car satnav systems can draw on real-time traffic congestion data and suggest alternative routes for drivers to avoid high traffic areas, Honda has taken a different approach to try and minimize the potential for traffic jams. The company has developed new technology designed to detect whether a person’s driving is likely to create traffic jams and encourage them to drive in such a way as to keep traffic flowing.
No doubt you’ve been forced to come to a stop in freeway traffic for no apparent reason. There’s been no accident, no lane closure, no dog on the road, but all of a sudden traffic comes to a complete standstill before moving off again. This stop-start freeway driving is pretty commonplace and is frustrating for those behind the wheel. It also increases travel time, the chance of rear-end accidents, and fuel consumption.
In 2007, research at the University of Exeter showed such traffic jams weren’t necessarily caused by heavy traffic alone, but by a “backward traveling wave” set off by a driver slowing down, causing the car behind to slow further, and the car behind that to slow yet further, and so on, resulting in a so-called “accordion effect” until somewhere down the line traffic comes to a complete standstill.
Now Honda has developed a world first technology that can detect whether the driving patterns of a vehicle are likely to lead to this kind of traffic congestion and suggests ways to avoid it. The system monitors the driver’s acceleration and deceleration patterns and, if it determines they have the potential to create a traffic jam, it encourages smoother driving via a color-coded display.
Honda says the system can be further improved by connecting it to cloud servers. This allows a vehicle’s Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) system to automatically activate at the right time to sync with the driving patterns of vehicles located further up the road and maintain a constant distance between them.
Honda conducted testing of the system in conjunction with the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Tokyo. Tests carried out without cloud connectivity and ACC resulted in an increase in the average speed of vehicles by around seven percent and improved fuel efficiency of trailing vehicles by around three percent. Adding the cloud and ACC to the mix improved the figures to 23 percent and eight percent, respectively.
As part of its efforts to bring the technology to market, Honda will conduct the first public-road testing of the system this year, beginning in Italy in May and Indonesia in July.