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Technology Used To Improve Traffic Flow And Road Safety

MARTA project. (Credit: Image courtesy of Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)

The Research Group in Mathematical Programming, Logistics and Simulation (PROMALS) and the Seat Chair of Innovation and Sustainable Development (Seat-UPC) create technological solutions to improve traffic flow, make driving safer and more comfortable, lower the accident rate and reduce traffic congestion and emissions of contaminant gases.

New advances will see vehicles equipped with sensors and interfaces which gather information on the traffic situation and display it on screen or alert the driver through automated voice announcements. The Seat-UPC Chair is involved in designing and fitting human machine interfaces (HMIs) and running automated tests of the electronic systems used in the MARTA project, which incorporate new technologies such as specialized image recognition applications.

New on-board sensors will be able to monitor the status of mechanical components such as brakes when a vehicle is in motion, while others will provide automatic control of driving speed and the distance maintained from the vehicle in front. Interfaces will enable data to be shared between vehicles, providing updated information on their position and speed every 200 meters. A system of nodes installed in the road network transmits the data to a mobility management center, where they are processed and used to maintain traffic flow by providing real-time information on congestion spots and suggesting optimum routes in the event of an accident.

The PROMALS group, attached to the Department of Statistics and Operations Research at the UPC, is looking at ways of using the data received by the management center. Its researchers are designing simulated traffic scenarios in which to test the new technologies developed under the MARTA project: a recent example is a traffic priority system in which the real-time data are used to determine the ideal intervals between traffic light phases across a given area, which optimizes traffic flow and reduces congestion.

The MARTA project has a budget of over thirty-five million euros and receives funding from the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI). The project, scheduled for completion in 2011, is coordinated by the company FICOSA as part of a wider program run by the National Strategic Consortium in Technical Research (CENIT), and brings together experts and researchers from nineteen companies and nineteen scientific centers and national universities.

Source : sciencedaily

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Scientists Test System To Steer Drivers Away From Dangerous Weather

Each of the test cars driving around Detroit contains onboard equipment that collects, stores, and transmits weather data. In the future, such onboard equipment will be much smaller and integrated into the car design instead of taking up trunk space. (Credit: Copyright UCAR, photo by Michael Chapman)

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are testing an innovative technological system in the Detroit area this month that ultimately will help protect drivers from being surprised by black ice, fog, and other hazardous weather conditions.

The prototype system is designed to gather detailed information about weather and road conditions from moving vehicles. Within about a decade, it should enable motor vehicles equipped with wireless technology to transmit automated updates about local conditions to a central database, which will then relay alerts to other drivers in the area.

“The goal is to reduce crashes, injuries, and deaths by getting drivers the information they need about nearby hazards,” says Sheldon Drobot, the NCAR program manager in charge of the project. “The system will tell drivers what they can expect to run into in the next few seconds and minutes, giving them a critical chance to slow down or take other action.”

NCAR’s road weather system is part of IntelliDrive(SM), a national initiative overseen by the Department of Transportation (DOT) to use new technologies to make driving safer and improve mobility. Officials envision that, over the next 10 years or so, motor vehicles will begin to automatically communicate with each other and central databases, alerting drivers to threats that range from adverse road conditions to nearby vehicles that are moving erratically or are running through a red light. The goal of the DOT is to reduce motor vehicle accidents by 90 percent by 2030.

The national program brings together federal and state transportation officials, motor vehicle manufacturers, engineering and planning firms, consumer electronics companies, and others.

An estimated 1.5 million motor vehicle accidents annually are associated with poor weather, resulting in about 7,400 deaths and 690,000 injuries, according to a 2004 National Research Council report, “Where the Weather Meets the Road.” The report called for improving safety by establishing a nationwide observation system to monitor weather conditions along roads and warn drivers about potential hazards.

For the road weather portion of IntelliDrive, vehicles will use sensors to measure atmospheric conditions such as temperature, pressure, and humidity. An onboard digital memory device will record that information, along with indirect signs of road conditions, such as windshield wipers being switched on or activation of the antilock braking system.

The information will be transmitted to a central database, where it will be integrated with other local weather data and traffic observations, as well as details about road material and alignment. The processed data will then be used to update motorists in the area when hazards are present and, when appropriate, suggest alternate routes.

The incoming data would be anonymous. Officials are working on guidelines to allow drivers to opt out of the system for privacy considerations.

In addition to providing motorist warnings, such a system will alert emergency managers to hazardous driving conditions and enable state highway departments to efficiently keep roads clear of snow. It can also help meteorologists refine their forecasts by providing them with continual updates about local weather conditions.

Motor vehicle manufacturers plan to install the onboard equipment in every new vehicle sold in the United States within a few years as part of a voluntary program to improve driving safety.

On the prowl for bad weather

NCAR scientists and engineers are testing the weather piece of the system by collecting information from 11 specially equipped cars in the Detroit area. Test drivers are on the prowl for adverse conditions, especially heavy rain and snow. Engineers will analyze the reliability of the system by comparing data from the cars with other observations from radars and weather satellites. They will also look at whether different models of cars-in this case, Jeep Cherokees, Ford Edges, and a Nissan Altima – produce comparable measurements of weather and road conditions.

The tests, which began early this month and will run for about two weeks, will help the NCAR team refine its software to accurately process data from motor vehicles. In the future, the team also hopes to study which types of weather information will be most useful and how that information can be clearly and safely communicated to drivers, possibly through a visual display or audio alert.

“The results look very encouraging,” Drobot says. “The tests show that cars can indeed communicate critical information about weather conditions and road hazards.”

Processing a deluge of observations

One of the biggest challenges for NCAR is to determine how to process the enormous amounts of data that could be generated by about 300 million motor vehicles. The center has worked with the Department of Defense, the aviation industry, and other organizations to analyze complex weather observations. But the new system incorporates information from far more sources, and those sources are moving.

NCAR engineers are developing mathematical formulas and other techniques to accurately interpret the information and eliminate misleading indicators. If a driver, for example, turns on the windshield wipers in clear weather to clean the windshield, the NCAR data system will identify that action as an outlier rather than issuing a false alert about precipitation.

“It’s not enough to process the information almost instantaneously,” says William Mahoney, who oversees the system’s development for NCAR. “It needs to be cleaned up, sent through a quality control process, blended with traditional weather data, and eventually delivered back to drivers who are counting on the system to accurately guide them through potentially dangerous conditions.”

IntelliDrive is a service mark of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Source :ScienceDaily (Apr. 11, 2009)

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The Year’s Best- And Worst-Selling Cars

 2009 Ford Focus

2009 Ford Focus

Big trucks and small cars see strong sales, but SUVs have been left in the dust.

By Jacqueline Mitchell

In a year when gas prices topped $4 a gallon and automakers ran to Congress seeking a $25 billion bailout, one would assume that low-margin, fuel-sipping small cars are far outselling big gas-guzzlers. Indeed, seven of the 10 best-selling vehicles so far this year are small cars or sedans that get high gas mileage.

But when gas prices go up and the economy heads south, “buyers shift … from what they want to what they need,” says Jeff Bartlett, deputy online editor of autos for Consumer Reports. And what many buyers still need are big pickup trucks, such as the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado–the two best-selling vehicles in America so far this year.

The F-150 attracted 473,933 buyers this year, making it the No. 1-selling vehicle for 2008–it’s been the best-selling vehicle in America for 27 years running. Another 431,725 buyers drove off Chevrolet lots in a Silverado.

“The pickups are a solution to a need,” says Bartlett, as those who buy the vehicles use them for their towing, off-road and cargo-hauling capabilities.

What Americans don’t need, however, are gas-guzzlers that don’t serve a purpose. Such is the case for the Nissan Armada, which rolls in at No. 5 among the worst-selling vehicles so far this year. Armada sales are off 49.1% this year compared to last year, with only 14,753 buyers purchasing the big and brawny SUV. It gets a combined 14 mpg.

The pickups don’t do much better on fuel economy, but their utility equates to their enduring, strong sales. Buyers who have a choice between an SUV and a smaller car, however, want good fuel economy, according to a survey Consumer Reports conducted in the summer. That’s why the Armada, Bartlett says, “is losing consumer appeal.”

Behind the Numbers

To generate our lists of the best- and worst-selling cars so far this year, we used automaker-provided sales numbers from January to November. The vehicles with the highest unit sales made the list of best-sellers.

To find the worst-selling cars we looked at the lowest sales figures for the same time period, as well as the percentage decrease in sales from 2007 to exclude high-end luxury and performance cars that are produced only in small numbers each year. The vehicles with the lowest sales made the list.

 2009 GMC Envoy

2009 GMC Envoy

As bad of a year as it’s been for sales of the aforementioned Armada, it’s not the worst-selling vehicle in 2008. That title goes to Hyundai Entourage minivan, with only 5,405 sold this year. Not far behind, at No. 4, is the Chrysler Pacifica, a cross between an SUV and a minivan that sold only 6,671 units so far this year, a drop of 87% from the same period a year ago. No turnaround is in the works, either–Chrysler announced at the beginning of the year that production has ceased on the Pacifica, Chrysler Crossfire and Dodge Magnum.

The problem with the Pacifica and other crossover vehicles like it is that consumers have not embraced them as the new family car, says David Thomas, senior editor at Cars.com. “Buyers just aren’t buying them. None of them have done well.”

Joining the Armada, Entourage and Pacifica in the top five worst-selling vehicles are the Mitsubishi Endeavor, with only 5,687 units sold through November, and the Hummer H2, with only 5,721 sold.

No SUV brand is immune from the sales slump. In the second half of the list of the worst-selling cars, all five–the Toyota FJ Cruiser, Jeep Commander, GMC Envoy, Dodge Durango and Hummer H3–are SUVs. Furthermore, all five have seen a staggering percentage drop in sales of around 50% from the same 11-month period in 2007.

The Bright Spots

While consumer interest in most SUVs has waned, many fuel-efficient small cars have seen very strong sales in 2008.

Buyers purchased 352,248 Honda Civics and 184,152 Ford Focus cars this year, ranking sixth and 10th on our list, respectively. The gas-powered Civic gets 29 mpg, but the sales numbers also include the even more efficient hybrid version, which gets a combined fuel economy of 42 mpg.

Joining the two trucks and the Civic in the top five best-selling vehicles so far this year are the Toyota Camry (411,342 sold) and Honda Accord (350,638 sold).

But while gas prices had an impact on the sales of some small cars and hybrid vehicles, they haven’t had as big of an effect as the economic crisis and credit crunch, experts say. In other words, their sales should be much higher.

“We have seen the best deals in terms of rebates and incentives in the last four months, but we are not seeing auto sales go up,” says Thomas. “The economic crisis is stopping people from buying cars.”

Source : http://autos.yahoo.com

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Toyota iQ Kalahkan Honda Jazz

TOYOTA iQ baru saja meraih penghargaan sebagai Car Of The Year, dalam ajang Japan Car Of The Year 2008 (JCOTY), Kamis (13/11/2008). Prestasi ini jelas mengalahkan Honda Jazz/Fit, pemenang tahun lalu, serta Yaris.

Menurut sumber motorauthority, iQ mendapat penghargaan karena dinilai sebagai kendaraan kota yang paling efektif, efsien dan tidak memerlukan ruang yang besar. iQ disebut sebagai The New Urban Vehicle.

Menampung 3-4 penumpang, iQ dibekali dapur pacu 1.0 liter bensin serta bertransmisi automatic lima tingkat kecepatan.

Meski mungil, mobil ini sudah dilengkapi sembilan titik airbag. Yang dibagi di depan, samping serta sandaran kepala seluruh penumpangnya. Selain itu juga telah menggunakan pelek racing ukuran 15inch yang dilengkapi electronic brake distribution (EBD) dan brake assist (BA).

Makanya tak heran jika si mungil mendapat bintang lima dari organisasi yang mengontrol sIstem keselamatan kendaraan, New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP).

Di Inggris, mobil ini ditawarkan mulai harga 9,5 ribu Euro. Sedangkan di Amerika Serikat seharga USD12,2 ribu.

(ahm)

Sumber : autos.okezone.com

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2020, Populasi Mobil di Dunia Capai 1 Miliar Unit

Foto: Ist

Selasa, 21 Oktober 2008 – 11:32 wib, Anton Suhartono – Okezone

BEIJING – Salah satu produsen mobil terbesar dunia General Motors memprediksikan, pada 2010 populasi mobil di dunia akan tumbuh menjadi 1 miliar unit. Angka tersebut meningkat 22 persen dibanding tahun ini.

Kondisi ini tentu mendatangkan masalah baru, tak hanya bagi lingkungan. Namun juga ketersediaan bahan bakar yang masih menjadi penggerak utama kendaraan.

“Permintaan energi untuk sektor transportasi akan terus meningkat. Kebutuhan energi untuk transportasi akan melonjak 70 persen pada 2030 dibanding 2004,” tutur Andreas Lippert direktur GM untuk energi global seperti dikutip Bloomberg, Selasa (21/10/2008).

Untuk menyiasati kondisi ini, berbagai produsen mobil berupaya mengurangi ketergantungan bahan bakar fosil pada produk-produknya. Untuk itu, pada era 2010-an, mobil hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell, maupun murni listrik perlahan akan menjadi tren dan banyak digunakan. Termasuk mobil yang menggunakan bahan bakar campuran ethanol atau fuel flex.

Pada 2009, General Motors berencana meluncurkan 32 model mobil di seluruh dunia yang menggunakan bahan bakar ethanol. Di Asia China akan menjadi proyek percontohan. Wajar jika GM memilih China, tak hanya pasar GM merekah di China. Namun China juga merupakan negara terbesar kedua di dunia dalam konsumsi energi. Ini juga wajar, karena China merupakan negara dengan industri automotif terbesar kedua di dunia di bawah Amerika Serikat. Artinya, mobil dengan jumlah populasi kendaraan terbanyak, pasti juga penyedot energi terbesar.

Menurut wakil presiden GM China, David S Chen, produksi ethanol di China melonjak hingga lima kali lipat mulai 2004 hingga 2008 menjadi 500 juta ton.

Kendaraan menyedot setengah dari konsumsi minyak di China. Menurut Development Research Center of the State Council, kebutuhan minyak di China akan melonjak hingga 60 persen pada 2020. “Saya melihat lebih banyak mobil di jalan-jalan China dari hari ke hari. Ini akan sangat mengkhawatirkan ketersediaan bahan bakar,” ungkap Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer Colcata, rekan bisnis GM dalam pengembangan biofeul.

Saat ini GM sudah memasarkan 5 juta unit mobil fuel flex di seluruh dunia. Sebanyak 3 juta unit di antaranya laris di AS. GM juga menargetkan pada 2012, setengah dari jumlah mobil yang diproduksi GM di seluruh dunia, sudah dapat menggunakan campuran bahan bakar ethanol. (ton)

Sumber : autos.okezone.com

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Dashing Computer Interface To Control Your Car

ScienceDaily (Sep. 2, 2008) — European researchers have developed a special dashboard computer to act as a single conduit for all devices emerging in modern cars – GPS, mobile, PDAs, intelligent car technologies. It should mean a better, more relaxed and even safer driving experience.

European research and the automotive industry have joined forces and developed a dashboard interface that can link and control the increasing information and vehicle controls systems currently emerging in the automotive industry.

Right now, dozens of research projects around Europe are working on new technologies to improve automotive safety and to develop intelligent vehicles. But all of these systems must then be added to the dozens of controls and user devices that are already found in a car.

Current in-vehicle systems like open door and seat belt warnings will soon be joined by lane assistance, hazard detection and a host of other information and systems for safe and efficient driving.

Information overload

“There is a real risk the driver will become overwhelmed as the number of in-car systems multiply,” warns Angelos Amditis, dissemination manager of the EU-funded AIDE integrated project. “There are so many potential demands on driver attention from these new systems that they could prove distracting.”

AIDE was set up to tackle this potential problem by developing an Adaptive, Integrated Driver-vehicle interface, or AIDE. The AIDE system provides a clearinghouse for all of the systems operating in a car and to interact with the driver.

This central intelligence can prioritise and emphasise the most important and urgent information based on the driver’s state and current driving conditions, and it can put all other non-essential alerts on hold.

Not nag-ware

AIDE designed the technology to prioritise demands on the driver’s attention depending on driving conditions. If the car is approaching a tricky junction, for example, it can hold all mobile calls and text messages, or suspend non-safety critical information.

The AIDE system can support many different functions, and help to ensure that drivers get the best possible use out of those functions, and that the system is safe and easy to use.

It works by sharing input and output controls among the various subsystems, such as collision avoidance or the mobile phone unit. It then coordinates information centrally, deciding the best course of action for both a given driving situation and the driver’s current state.

If the driver is distracted, for example, the system issues warnings with greater intensity. AIDE also developed the interface so that it could adapt to different types of driver. It is possible to personalise the warning, the media, timing and its intensity according to the driver’s profile, both explicit and implicit preferences, explains Amditis.

AIDE was popular among drivers in field tests, with approximately 50% of the test subjects reporting that they appreciated support from the system. That is a surprising result, really, given that many drivers find in-car systems – like seat belt and door warnings – maddening, and it is very difficult to develop a comfortable interface.

But AIDE succeeded in developing helpful software rather than what could easily be annoying nag-ware.

The positive field response is a tribute to the studies and testing undertaken by the AIDE project. “We consulted drivers and experts, and a lot of literature about driver response to safety systems, using a user-centred design approach,” notes Amditis.

HMI cookbook

AIDE also looked at quantitative models and simulation, which may ultimately provide a cost-effective system for testing. The perfect quantitative model remains elusive for now, but AIDE did develop a ‘cookbook’ for Human-Machine Interface (HMI) testing in the automotive industry.

“The project also raised awareness in Europe about the importance of interface issues for road safety, and AIDE has put in-car HMI on the agenda in Europe,” explains Amditis. “Many of our partners will continue AIDE’s work, adapting elements of it to their own cars and trucks, while many of the equipment manufacturers are looking on AIDE-like systems to be implemented in their vehicles.”

“There might be a move towards some standards over time, but in the short term manufacturers will deploy proprietary implementations,” he adds.

Amditis says that the partners hope to continue the work in future projects. “Right now we are putting the finishing touches to our reporting and dissemination work in AIDE, but we will be pursuing new research initiatives after that.”

The AIDE project received funding from the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research in ‘information society’ technologies.

Adapted from materials provided by ICT Results.

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On Indian roads, progress takes a deadly toll

Taken from international herald tribune.

By Rina Chandran Reuters

Published: August 28, 2008

MUMBAI: The twisted metal of smashed cars lining highways here is a grim testament to India’s road toll, one of the worst in the world with about 100,000 people killed in traffic accidents last year.

As incomes rise and the economy rapidly expands, new cars and trucks pour onto Indian roads at an ever-increasing pace, squeezing into narrow, congested streets that were never designed for such a massive flow of traffic. Creaking infrastructure, poorly trained drivers and cars that lack basic safety features because of a preference for cheap, fuel-efficient vehicles are causing an already horrendous road toll to balloon.

And the toll is not just human. The World Bank estimates that every year road accidents cost India about 3 percent of its gross domestic product, which was more than $1 trillion in 2007.

“We’re talking about a very serious issue here that also has huge economic implications,” said Rajesh Rohatgi, a transport specialist with the World Bank in New Delhi.

Road accidents could become one of the biggest public health issues in India. The World Bank forecasts that by 2020, the death toll on roads will overtake deadly diseases like tuberculosis and AIDS.

In India, where roads carry almost 90 percent of all passenger traffic and 65 percent of all freight, the mortality rate is 14 per 10,000 vehicles compared with less than two per 10,000 vehicles in developed countries, the World Bank said.

It is easy to see why: Cars and motorbikes, many with four riders astride, share space on narrow roads with bicycles, three-wheeled rickshaws, trucks, buses, the odd bullock cart and pedestrians forced to walk on roads because of hawkers on sidewalks.

With few Indian cities enforcing basic requirements like seat belts, it is not unusual to see children sitting in the laps of adults in front seats, and overloaded buses with people balanced precariously on the steps or perched on the roofs.

Pot-holed roads, inadequate safety regulations, a lenient license system and a lax attitude toward drunk and underage driving are all blamed for accidents that kill an estimated 275 people every day.

But the biggest killer is arguably the growing numbers of vehicles using Indian roads that are incapable of supporting the massive volume of traffic, steered by drivers who lack basic skills.

It is a problem that is being seen in other developing countries with booming economies that are making cars affordable to the masses.

The World Bank estimates that the number of deaths from car accidents globally will rise to two million per year by 2020 from just over half that figure now unless more people are taught driving skills and road laws are better enforced.

The Indian Transport Ministry estimates that the number of annual fatalities from road accidents might climb to 150,000 by 2015 because of the rapid growth of vehicle ownership in India.

Annual sales of passenger vehicles in India are expected to nearly double to two million units by 2010 and sales of commercial vehicles could more than double to one million units.

Vehicle ownership has risen at an average rate of about 15 percent a year over the last decade, but road maintenance is underfunded, with only about a third of road needs being met.

“Unfortunately, we have no policy framework, and there are so many agencies involved with very little coordination between them,” said Rohatgi, of the World Bank. “Blame must be shared equally at the institutional level, the engineering level and the consumer level.”

The government plans to spend more than $500 billion over the next five years to upgrade its roads, ports, airports and other creaky and inadequate infrastructure. But often, not all the money that is earmarked for a project actually gets there due to corruption and poor governance. The result is substandard construction and poor road maintenance.

While loopholes in the system put licenses in the hands of those ill-equipped to drive, there is also a general apathy among consumers toward seat belts, air bags and motorcycle helmets.

“Safety is unfortunately not a big part of the purchase decision of Indian consumers,” said Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of the Autocar magazine.

“Our best-selling small cars are typically not the safest vehicles on the road, because consumers are more worried about fuel efficiency and the cost of ownership, and would rather not pay for safety features such as air bags and anti-lock brakes.”

Vehicle makers are trying to fill the breach left by the government by setting up driver training schools.

“We do believe the need for training is becoming increasingly relevant due to the increase in vehicle volumes, high speed roads, enhanced performance of vehicles, and the requirement of specific skills for application vehicles,” said Debasis Ray, head of corporate communications at Tata Motors, the leading vehicle manufacturer in India.

The top passenger car maker in the country, Maruti Suzuki India, manages two training schools in Delhi with the state transport department. It has evaluated more than 400,000 clients, mostly commercial vehicle drivers, a spokesman said. It also runs about 35 driving schools along with its dealers and is setting up more.

Ford Motor is customizing its U.S.-based, teen-focused Driving Skills for Life program for drivers in developing auto markets including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Hyundai Motor of South Korea has a student traffic volunteers scheme in New Delhi and Madras, while Tata Motors trains commercial vehicle drivers.

Courses for truck drivers are seen as particularly crucial, as a lack of trained heavy vehicle drivers may be holding back business activity in India by hampering the transport of goods across the vast country.

“As more cars are sold, there is a demand for more drivers,” said Mohit Arora, managing director for India at J.D. Power Asia-Pacific. “Transporters also want drivers for commercial vehicles, where the need for training is perhaps most acute.

“Tata has struggled with the fact that during the boom there weren’t enough experienced drivers, which can actually dent demand for trucks,” he said.

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