Predicting Traffic Patterns, 1 Honda at a Time
Cloud-based system aims to prevent annoying traffic bottlenecks.
Honda, however, says it's building a feature that can predict traffic jams and even prevent them from happening. Too good to be true?
Honda engineers and researchers at the University of Tokyo will be road-testing the system, which monitors a vehicle's throttle and brakes for patterns of sudden slowdowns and acceleration, next month in Italy. The idea, Honda says, is to keep a safe following distance from the cars in front, thereby causing the cars behind to not brake as fast and clump together.
It's otherwise known as "bottlenecking," where a number of cars that slow down suddenly, as a group, cause a ripple of congestion that can last for miles. If you've ever slogged through traffic and wondered "What was that all about?" -- without finding an accident or some other obvious delay as in rush hour -- that's what Honda is trying to eliminate.
When Honda's system recognizes a potential for congestion, it coaches the driver through a "color-coded display" to drive more smoothly. The automaker says that even other drivers not using the system but following a driver who was, saw good improvements: Average speed and fuel economy increased by 23 percent and 8 percent, respectively, for the following vehicle.
When connected to a cloud-based server monitoring potential traffic problems, the system can react quicker. Ideally, Honda would tie it to the car's adaptive cruise control, which would automatically switch on to maintain proper following distances at just the right time. In this instance, average speed and fuel economy increase a further 16 and 5 percent, respectively.
Hopefully, this would activate only on the highway and not on some back road, where sudden braking and acceleration is the norm rather than the exception. Honda did not say if steering input would factor into the system's predictions or what the "color-coded display" would show. But the tendency of most drivers to fill any gaps and obnoxiously tailgate on packed roads is a human flaw, as is our fascination with accidents on the other side of the road. Doesn't everyone want to be home for dinner on time?
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