Together with Renault, robot engineers from Delft University of Technology have developed the Proactive Eco Mode. This new system enables car drivers to reach the desired speed faster, based on predictions of the future, while maintaining the eco fuel benefits. This has been successfully demonstrated on French roads.
Driving in eco mode can reduce fuel consumption and is good for both the environment and people’s wallets. In practice, however, it often causes frustration among drivers, causing them to quickly switch it off. The mode prevents them from accelerating when they really need to, for example when entering a motorway.
For the development of the Proactive Eco Mode, TU Delft researchers Timo Melman and Niek Beckers first focused on the driver and on data collection instead of complex models. During a test at the Renault Technocentre in France, they collected data on a motorist’s driving behavior. After just one round of testing, their system could make successful predictions using a simple algorithm. It helped the driver to accelerate quickly and easily when this appeared necessary and at the same time to drive economically. Renault responded enthusiastically and expressed interest in implementing the patented system in future cars.
“Our system allows your car to look into the near future while you’re driving,” explains Melman. “This is possible because we make predictions about when a driver will need a lot of power and when not, and we change the car’s engine settings if necessary. This doesn’t require complicated algorithms: we simply do it by collecting data about how the driver and other road users drive. Thanks to this data, the car ‘knows’ when you want to accelerate. This makes it much more pleasant for the driver to stay in eco mode and it’s still energy efficient.”
Beckers and Melman developed the Proactive Eco Mode with David Abbink, TU Delft professor of human-robot interaction, and Xavier Mouton, engineering general manager steering system at Renault. The work ties in with the “Meaningful human control of autonomous intelligent systems” research area and with the Aitech institute, of which Abbink is the scientific director. This institute aims to develop intelligent systems that are both transparent and understandable to humans.