Cars provide mobility for billions of people around the world. For this to happen with maximum environmental compatibility, smart traffic management solutions and new utilization concepts will be required. Volkswagen is actively researching these topics and engaging with other companies and institutions in pursuit of ecologically acceptable forms of mobility for the future.
Up close and economical
In the course of 2018, MAN, DB Schenker and Fresenius University of Applied Sciences will be putting electronically connected trucks on the road. Digital communications keep the trucks at a steady distance. The aim is to cut fuel consumption and emissions, make better use of available road space and boost road safety.
Under the platooning principle, a number of electronically connected trucks follow each other at short distances, forming a convoy or “platoon”. Linked together by their vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, the trucks effectively operate as a single unit. To take one example: if a situation occurs where the lead vehicle has to brake sharply, a brake sensor shares that information wirelessly with the other vehicles in the platoon, enabling them to brake simultaneously, with no time lag. The data is transmitted at a speed far exceeding human reaction times, which helps to reduce the risk of accidents.
As well as improving road safety, this technology also helps to protect the environment by reducing fuel consumption and emissions for the platoon as a whole by up to ten percent. This is down to what is known as the slipstreaming effect: the short distances between vehicles in the platoon reduce drag on all the vehicles traveling behind the platoon leader, which in turn means lower fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions.
During 2018, MAN will pilot-test semi-automated platoons on a section of the A9 motorway between Munich and Nuremberg known as the Digital Motorway Test Bed. A two-vehicle platoon will be used, comprising a driver-controlled lead truck and a second truck following close behind, whose driver will only intervene in the driving process if necessary. At platoon speeds of 80 km/h, the second truck will follow at a distance of just 15 meters.
Up to 10% reduction in CO₂ emissions.
Green lights for greener driving
Driver assistance systems help brake the car, change lanes and even pull into or out of a parking space. And they make for added safety, comfort and convenience. The “Intersection Pilot” can do even more: it helps not only the driver but the environment as well.
This is particularly important at busy major intersections, where CO2 emissions can peak. That’s where this Volkswagen research project comes in: The Intersection Pilot is connected to the traffic infrastructure in the shape of traffic lights, for example. This allows it to govern the speed of the car to ensure that, as far as possible, it doesn’t have to stop at the lights. And if a red light does proves unavoidable, the system governs the way the car slows down and then moves off again, to help as many following vehicles as possible to cross the intersection during the green phase.
For drivers, this means less time spent waiting and shorter tailbacks, while their cars consume less energy, reducing CO2 emissions into the bargain. One spin-off benefit is that traffic noise is also reduced, because accelerating from a standstill is a prime source of noise. The Intersection Pilot has already been tested in research projects with various partners and has emerged with flying colors. Before it can be successfully introduced, however, the traffic infrastructure must first be equipped with the necessary technology.
Intersections in particular offer great potential to cut CO₂ emissions.