Because connected and autonomous vehicles can be about more than safety and convenience.
When evaluating the benefits of autonomous, connected vehicles, the emphasis is generally placed on safety and convenience. Rightly so. The ability to radically reduce the largest contributor to vehicle accidents – the human factor – from the equation is nothing less than transformative. And cars and trucks have always been integral to how we work, play and live. So it naturally follows that seamlessly integrating our digitally connected lives into the “mobile device” that transports us from one place to another is the next logical chapter in the history of the automobile. But is that enough?
Delphi Technologies doesn’t think so. That’s why we’ve joined forces with other technology leaders, universities and the U.S. government to enhance vehicle-to-everything (V2X) with innovations that will also make cars greener.
The goal: To achieve a 20 percent improvement in fuel economy over the vehicles found on the road today.
Welcome to the NEXTCAR program.
So, how will these improvements be realized? It’s through the NEXTCAR Program, which is short for NEXT-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated On-Road Vehicles. The program is a series of projects led by U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). It fosters and funds government, private enterprise and university collaborations aimed at linking connected and automated systems with advancing internal combustion engine electrification technologies.
The three year, roughly $24 million initiative kicked off in late 2016. In addition to ARPA-E, Delphi Technologies is collaborating with Ohio State University (OSU), Tula Technology, Aptiv and Transportation Research Center (TRC) on NEXTCAR.
The plan is for the partners to identify the obstacles and craft real-world solutions that will pave the way forward for a new generation of integrated, safe, connected – and green – vehicles.
Shifting powertrains from reactive to predictive.
With the initiative, Delphi Technologies is deploying next-generation versions of our 48-volt mild hybrid and Tula Technology’s Dynamic Skip Fire (eDSF) combination. The two innovations work in tandem to optimize cylinder deactivation, hybrid range and performance.
With the NEXTCAR Program, the plan is to leverage 48-volt mild hybrid with Tula’s eDSF to create what we call “intelligent driving.” The technologies will be adapted to work with advances in vehicle connectivity and autonomy to predict the route ahead. As a result, vehicles will know – in advance – the best route to travel for optimum operation of the hybrid engine to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Think of it this way. Today, you and your vehicle respond to events as they happen. Going forward, your car will know if the road ahead is flat or hilly; congested or wide open; and traffic light patterns and durations. Armed with this information, which will feed the propulsion system, your car becomes “smart.”
It’s now able to present you with the option: Do you want the greener route?
The vision for how it will work.
While it’s still early days, the NEXTCAR Program team envisions intelligent driving systems similar to today’s cruise control – essentially something you can turn “on” and “off.” With this approach, the system can be used with different levels of automated vehicles.
When you engage the system, information from cloud-based route selection programs and ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) technology will direct you to the best routes that optimize engine operation. This then maximizes the range and performance of the 48-volt mild hybrid with eDSF system.
The team is also exploring vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) innovations, such as receiving information from smart traffic lights, which will time your drive to match green-light patterns. This will avoid the fuel losses and emission outputs caused by stop-and-go traffic.
Future options include leveraging vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies, such as DSRC (dedicated short range communication) and radar to maintain vehicle speed and distance at optimal levels. This will provide smooth traffic interactions and aerodynamic benefits that will boost fuel economy.
Intelligent driving + Smart City = Real-world solutions.
The advantages of intelligent driving clear. But the onboard vehicle systems are only as good as the infrastructure in place to support them. And, like many tech advances, there has to be consumer demand to drive adoption and lower costs.
The NEXTCAR team will delve into these dimensions by leveraging the Smart City initiative underway in Columbus, Ohio – home to NEXTCAR partner OSU. The Smart City effort is aimed at modernizing urban planning by creating and deploying technology to increase mobility and accessibility, and reduce carbon emissions. The infrastructure that’s going up and the people who will trial it will be accessible to NEXTCAR.
This will allow the team to identify – and potentially solve – the obstacles associated with infrastructure gaps and driver acceptance, which could thwart intelligent driving commercialization.
The NEXTCAR team is making progress. They recently showcased a demonstration vehicle at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Included on the 1.8-liter turbo Passat was a new version of Tula’s eDSF; a state-of-the-art fuel system; and components and subsystems, such as forward-looking radar/camera fusion and eco-adaptive cruise control with electronic horizon, to connect route assistance and predictive powertrain systems.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, of course. But the team is confident that NEXTCAR will fulfill the promise of safer, more connected and greener cars and trucks.