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UC Riverside large-scale eco-driving study shooting for up to 30% improvement in fuel economy

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside along with their research partners recently received a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) (earlier post) to study and evaluate technologies that provide feedback to drivers so they can cut harmful emissions and reduce fuel use by up to 30%.

The three-year project aims to develop and demonstrate a comprehensive driver feedback technology that will improve fuel efficiency of passenger cars and fleet vehicles of businesses and government. While such technology already exists on a small scale, the new study intends to make large advances in a fully integrated feedback system that includes better trip planning and routing; improved efficiency while driving; and comprehensive reporting on a periodic basis.

This is one of the first major research studies in the United States to address eco-driving. Several small studies, including one at UC Riverside, have found fuel economy improvements in the range of 5 to 15%. Larger-scale eco-driving programs in Asia and Europe have shown fuel improvements up to 20%.

This grant allows us to go beyond small, anecdotal studies to show, on a large scale, the significant positive economic and environmental impacts of eco-driving principles and the value of feedback systems

—Matthew Barth, the principal investigator

The project is one of 40 being funded through a more than $175 million Department of Energy program aimed at improving the fuel efficiency of the next generation of vehicles.

There are many things a driver can do to save fuel and reduce emissions, including better trip planning; keeping vehicles well-maintained; avoiding rapid starts and stops; avoiding unnecessary idling; and taking the most direct route to a destination.

We want to take those practices to the next level with the aid of the driver feedback technology.

—Kanok Boriboonsomsin, co-principal investigator

The advanced driving feedback system which will be developed as part of this grant will build on existing technology and current research by developing and integrating a number of innovative features, including:

  • Calculation of schedules and routes for day-to-day passenger travel or fleet operation that accounts for appointment times, road networks, driver and vehicle costs, vehicle capacity, and other constraints;

  • Calculation of the most fuel-efficient route for the trip that incorporates information of the vehicle characteristics, roadway attributes, and traffic conditions;

  • Provision of audio driving feedback to the driver (for reduced driver distraction) to avoid conditions such as excessive idling, speeding, and aggressive acceleration/braking;

  • Monitoring of driving behavior, vehicle performance, and fuel consumption in real-time;

  • A scoring system that shows which vehicles, drivers, and routes are the most fuel efficient;

  • Customized reports to the driver with recommendations for improving fuel efficiency; and

  • Continually updated algorithms for individual vehicles and drivers based on real-world fuel consumption data from the engine control unit of each vehicle.

By integrating driver feedback technology, it is expected that overall fuel savings will range from 10% to 30%.

The project will also enable drivers to improve and optimize driving habits and enable fleet managers to monitor performance and make adjustments to training and policies. The researchers will also develop a database of driving conditions in the fleet’s operating area, which will continually be improved by algorithm modifications.

The project is a public private collaboration.

Involved on the public side are: UC Riverside; UC Berkeley, which will provide behavioral analysis of drivers; and Riverside Transit Agency and California Department of Transportation, both of which will provide fleet vehicles for testing.

Involved on the private side are: ESRI, a Redlands-based developer of geographic information systems (GIS) technologies that will provide trip planning software; NAVTEQ, which will provide mapping and traffic data and technical support; Beat the Traffic, which will provide access to smartphone GPS data and develop methods to determine delays on roads; Earthrise Technology, which will provide telematics devices and software interface; and Automatiks, which will provide system configuration and installation of the in-vehicle device.

All the work on this project, except for the field operational tests, will be performed at the Center for Environmental Research and Technology. The field operational tests will be performed on a variety of in-use vehicles from commuters and commercial fleets operating throughout Riverside and San Bernardino counties.




This is sensible. I've often thought that the Mapquest Traffic feature that shouls which roads are congested should be combined with the Garmin route alorithm to figure out the true "fastest route" and or "most fuel efficient" route.

Also, when I drive my friend's Prius I get 8-10 more Mpg on average because I coast a lot and keep the RPM down.

To be effective this has to have a really good user interface and be extremely convenient or people won't do it.


30% seems ambitious, unless it is for worst case "lead foot" people.
Most people have to drive when they have to and do not have a lot of choice in when to go.
Telling people that if they drove to work @ 5am they could save a load of gas is not awfully useful.

On the other hand, it is a low hanging fruit and they could probably get a 10% improvement from most people without too much effort or highway driving at 50mph.

I wish they would teach bus drivers to slow down a bit - they whiz around when the traffic is light, braking hard at every stop.


1.2 million here, 1.2 million there - pretty soon it adds up.

Tax another 10 millionaires 10% each and then tell them what they get and watch ‘em go donate to the tea party.

Yes mahonj; “teach bus drivers to slow down a bit.” Cost? Nothing!

By their own words this has been done before – just not on such an extravagant scale.

Will this help ? Maybe.

Is it worth it? “Huh? Why? Does that matter?”


Didn't the 2010 Honda Insight come with an efficiency meter with a color-coded instant feedback on how fuel efficient the driver's technique is?

What if every car had that? What if a black box logged the aggregate score and at the time of smog check it was uploaded and the DMV fees were discounted for highly efficient drivers?

There must be a lot of ways to inform and inspire more efficient driving technique.



HB and mahonj just provided some great ideas.

Maybe, just maybe, equivalent to what will come out of the this $1.2 million grant.

But it was all for nothing! In more ways than one.

And one important criteria was NOT met. The DOE doing its job - spending our money.


If you applied a similiar bandwidth criterion to your posts, TT, you'd be awfully quiet.


It has nothing to do with bandwidth criteria, it's about common sense.

The idea that the government will get our money's worth is ludicrous.


TT is saying (IMO) it's none of guvmnt bizness to modify citizen behavior. But that's what law and enforcement purportedly does.

HB's idea seems decent. If you want to drive like a granny cause you fear the future or that of the children - you get a little prize. Maybe a bobblehead doll for the dash, a free EZPass, or a free Community Chest draw.

Both Leaf and Volt have graphics that indicate green efficiency sweet spots. but if energy is abundant throughout the universe - why the fuss?


Energy is abundant but harnessing, storing and distributing it is not. The initial cost it still very (much too) high. Wasting energy, even from clean sustainable sources, is still detrimental to our well being. Future e-vehicles will go 10 Km/Kwh instead of about 1 Km/Kwhe for our common gas guzzler. The other 9 Km/Kwh will be useful to do something else with.


Well said, Harvey.


Energy IS abundant (we're practically swimming in it), but the sources which are both abundant and easy to tap have been declared anathema by the likes of "concerned" organizations. Sources like direct solar are available in mass quantities, but are expensive and cumbersome to collect and store.


Driving like a granny, and proud of it. Go grannies!


Give half of the $1.2 million to Jus7tme, and the rest back to the taxpayers.


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