Green GPS Saves Fuel for Drivers
With gas prices trending up and carbon emissions concerns on the rise, many drivers may be asking themselves, “Is there a way to decrease the amount of fuel my car is consuming?”
The relationship between fuel consumption and driving routes is an area of interest for many scientific researchers around the world. At the Illinois department of computer science, Professor Tarek Abdelzaher and his PhD students Raghu Kiran Ganti, Hossein Ahmadi, and Pham Nam are taking an interesting approach, tackling the problem using sensors and GPS. The team is developing a novel navigation service, called Green GPS, to solve this real world problem and help drivers make more informed fuel-saving decisions.
Green GPS maps vehicular fuel consumption on city streets, allowing drivers to find the most fuel-efficient routes for their vehicles between arbitrary end-points. Green GPS relies on data collected by individuals from their vehicles as well as on mathematical models that are developed in Abdelzaher’s lab to compute fuel efficient routes.
“Unlike existing Internet services such as Google Maps and MapQuest, which provide either the fastest or the shortest route between two points,” explains Ganti, “Green GPS collects the necessary information to compute and answer queries on the most fuel efficient route. The most fuel-efficient route between two points may be different from the shortest and fastest routes.”
For example, a fast route that uses a freeway may consume more fuel because fuel consumption increases non-linearly with speed, or because the route is longer. Similarly, the shortest route that traverses busy city streets may be suboptimal because of downtown traffic. The optimal route might therefore be neither shortest nor fastest.
The service exploits measurements of standard vehicular sensor interfaces that give access to most gauges and engine instrumentation. Vehicles that have been sold in the United States after 1996 are mandatorily equipped with a sensing subsystem called the On-Board Diagnostic (OBD-II) system. The OBD-II is a diagnostic system that monitors the health of the automobile using sensors that measure approximately 100 different engine parameters. Examples of monitored measurements include fuel consumption, engine RPM, coolant temperature and vehicle speed.
To build its fuel efficiency models, Green GPS utilizes a vehicle’s OBD-II system and a typical scanner tool in conjunction with a participatory sensing framework. The team is collecting data from vehicles driven by research participants to determine what factors influence fuel consumption. The data collected by the participants is driving the creation of a mathematical model that the researchers say will enabled Green GPS to estimate fuel consumption for different streets and car types, for which no direct OBD-II measurements are present.
“You do not have to be a member of our service or install any sensors in your car to be able to use Green GPS,” suggests Abdelzaher. “Our models predict what your car will consume. All you need to do is type in a source and a destination address on a webpage, as well as the make, model and year of your vehicle. Of course you can choose to be a member too, and upload data from your vehicle using our software, in which case our estimates for your car will be more accurate.” The service will soon be available on handheld GPS devices.
This study will help better understand factors that contribute most to the fuel-efficiency of vehicles in everyday use. Street congestion, elevation variability, average speed, and average distance between stops (e.g., stop signs) may lead to changes in the amount of fuel consumed. Factors may also include vehicle make and model, and an individual’s driving style.
“A parent who drives their car with smoother transitions between vehicle speeds might end up spending less gas on the same route than, for instance, their 16-year old child who guns the engine,” says Abdelzaher.
Abdelzaher and his students are enthusiastic about the results of their work so far. Early studies have already shown a 10% reduction in consumer gas consumption with limited data, they said, and they hope to see even greater results with more data and detailed analysis yet to come.
Going forward, Professor Abdelzaher and his team plan to link their work into Microsoft Research’s SensorMap framework built on Bing Maps (previously known as Virtual Earth), http://www.sensormap.org/. Professor Abdelzaher’s broader research goal on the project is to enable sharing sensory information in a networked world of mobile devices while being sensitive to data management issues to protect privacy and prohibit unauthorized access.
For more information on Green GPS please visit http://green-way.cs.illinois.edu. To participate as a driver as part of the study, visit http://green-way.cs.illinois.edu/GreenGPS_files/Ad.pdf.