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UMTRI study suggests possibility of substantial gains in real-world fuel efficiencies through modification of driver behavior

A recent study published by the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) concludes that modifying driver behavior through training or using electronic modulation technology between the driver’s foot and the throttle could results in substantial potential gains in real-world fuel efficiencies.

David LeBlanc, Michael Sivak and Scott Bogard studied fuel consumption rates from a naturalistic driving data set employing a fleet of identical passenger vehicles with gasoline engines and automatic transmissions. One hundred and seventeen drivers traveled a total of more than 342,000 kilometers (213,000 miles), unsupervised, using one of the experiment’s instrumented test vehicles as their own. Continuous monitoring of hundreds of data signals, including fuel flow rate, provided a unique data set of driving behavior with a common vehicle.

A substantial variation in the overall fuel consumption rate was observed. The differences between the mean consumption rate and the fuel consumption rates for the 10th and 90th percentile drivers were 13 and 16 percent, respectively, of the mean value. The corresponding differences between the 10th and 90th percentiles and the mean for both speed-keeping events and accelerating-from-rest events were up to 10 percent.

While some of the obtained variation in fuel economy is likely due to uncontrolled or unmeasured factors, such as passenger and fuel weight, and wind, the data imply that the behavior of real-world drivers adds significant variation to fuel consumption rates.


  • LeBlanc, David J. et al. (2010) Using naturalistic driving data to assess variations in fuel efficiency among individual drivers. UMTRI-2010-34



This makes sense. Drivers not following the Approved Behaviors Driver's Guide should be fined, suspended and forced to take "DriveAbuse" - the behavior modification drug that causes recalcitrant drivers to vomit, become disoriented and have the DTs.

It has worked for fascists for centuries.


The 1965 Chevy Impala offered a manifold vacuum gauge to show fuel economy. They put it on some 327 C.I. engine models to show the driver when they were getting poor mileage. At that time gasoline was 50 cents per gallon and they had full service.

My point is that times change, but human behavior can be more consistent. Even then people saw the large center mounted gauge and learned to keep their foot out of it when necessary. Their fuel economy might have gone from 10 to 12 mpg just with behavior awareness. We can do that now as well.


All you would need is a face of Chavez, Armadinejad, villan of choice with a grin that gets bigger as you current FE drops!!


All vehicles should be equipped with Approved Behaviors devices which feed data to government computers accessible by law enforcement, so unapproved behaviors can be identified & corrected via fine or incarceration.


A 10,000 volts jolt should be enough.


No one that I know of is suggesting Big Brother tactics, but it seems some people can not resist going to absurd extremes to try to make a point that really makes no sense at all.


SJC, I understand your comment but looking at the untapped variables such as wind speed and driver/passenger weight should tell us something about the efficacy of this study. Take for example a 300 pound man with two 200 pound passengers driving into a 30 MPH headwind. No matter how ell behaved his driving habits - he's still using more gas than a 150 pound guy who leaves rubber at every stop light.

To be of real value the modification would have to recommend not driving in high winds and strict regimens of diet and caloric intake for heavy drivers.

My point is there is severely diminished return on behavior modification of all kinds. If it causes no immediate harm to others and is paid for by the driver (fast drivers buy more gas) there is little point.

Note too that it is likely the age demographic would indicate compensation at different driver ages. e.g. A teenage driver will likely consume more gas than when he is thirty years old given same conditions. i.e. behavior self-modifies, although not on the time line of some.


Europe and Japan solve fuel waste by not subsidizing oil's pollution, health, and oil war costs.

This leads to twice the US gas price, efficient cars, and high-speed rail, besides less fuel waste.


What a revelation (but no real data).

I think this study is what is absurd.

Next they will discover that combining trips reduces the number of trips and saves gas.

Also - accelerating is not what wastes gas - braking does.

Acceleration reduces throttling losses. Brake rotors disks, drums and shoes waste energy.

The Prius does not accelerate slowly - it recoups the energy during braking that the disks normally waste.

Would the Prius still get excellent mileage if you were careful to never have to brake – of course.

Never drive any faster than you need to, to make the next GREEN light, so you don’t have to brake and just ignore the rage of those behind you.

Rather than some ridiculous government rules or laws, just tax the $hit out of large engines so drivers are always at WOT just to keep up.

accelerating is not what wastes gas... Acceleration reduces throttling losses.
Acceleration with an unlocked torque converter loses more gas than you save with lower pumping losses. Accelerating to a high speed earlier leads to higher overall drag energy loss (integral of force over distance).

Optimal strategy is moderate acceleration which keeps TC losses to a minimum with earliest lockup, and coasting to stops with either (a) driveline in neutral or (b) engine braking with full fuel cutoff.


Only those degenerate wastrels with automatic transmissions should give lip service to light footing it, and they should actually concentrate on achieving early upshifts.

Us responsible drivers, with manual transmissions should simply avoid high rpms; upshift early and often.

But as to some futile driver education program where we try to convince people that achieving cruise speed 10 seconds later will matter, just sacrifice a little drivability and make the car upshift earlier and “never” downshift (or at least not until AFTER WOT and of course as the car slows).

Most cars, since about 2000, unlock the TC and shut fuel off on coasting already.


Try finding a US-built car with a manual transmission. It's mighty hard beyond the econoboxes. The Cadillac CTS sedan is one of the rare exceptions. Lincoln MKZ is auto or hybrid only; Town Car is 4 spd auto only.


If you can regenerate braking energy, it helps on the next take off from the stop light. With small battery packs the amount of braking energy captured is small. With the new PHEVs coming along they can capture more energy.


The EPA rates some new automatic transmissions at better mpg than manuals.


The dual clutch 6 speeds are more assisted manual than conventional automatic. People like the convenience of automatic transmissions, so as long as they make them efficient they will sell.

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