For four years, researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Institute (VTI) have been working on Ecodriver, a wide-ranging project under the auspices of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme involving twelve partners in eight countries who have jointly assessed innovative systems for feedback on environmentally friendly driving. The project, which was coordinated by the University of Leeds, is now completed, and a final report was presented at a closing event in Stuttgart, Germany this spring.
“The basic idea of the project was to try and figure out what advice to give drivers about fuel-efficient driving, and how that advice should be presented to achieve the optimum effect”, says Johan Olstam, one of the VTI researchers who was heavily involved in the project.
In the project, the advice for drivers covers everything from what gear to drive in to what speed is appropriate. Some pieces of advice are to be given before driving begins, some during driving, and others afterwards.
The project consisted of four phases. It initially set out to develop prototypes for support systems and to formulate advice for drivers. This was followed by extensive field testing with various vehicles until it was time for assessment. The project was then scaled up for the entire EU using data from all the testing, before it finally turned to predicting the future. It was here that VTI played a key role.
VTI: an active party in many respects
Partway into the project, the project’s self-developed prototype support systems were tested in VTI’s driving simulators. Another of the special project areas handled by VTI involved evaluating the distraction potential of one of the support systems. VTI also conducted and analysed a field test in which the support system was only sometimes used. The researchers then compared the drivers’ blinking behaviour during the different rounds to see whether their attention allocation had been affected, and whether there was any risk that a support system might attract driver attention too much or at the wrong time.
The project initially had an ambitious goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption by up to 20%. However, that goal soon proved difficult to achieve.
“Getting a driver to drive with optimum fuel efficiency is no easy task”, says VTI researcher Viktor Bernhardsson.
Bernhardsson worked on the concluding phase, in which extensive traffic simulations were run based on data gathered in earlier phases. The simulations were complex, and were set up in three scenarios spanning the years up to 2035. The simulations took account of factors such as the need and incentives for altered driving behaviour, different types of traffic composition, and future economic growth.
Reduced energy consumption driving on country roads
Simulations were set up for three types of roads, i.e., country roads, motorways, and city streets. VTI ran the simulations for driving on country roads. The other two types of simulations were handled by TNO in the Netherlands and the University of Leeds in Great Britain.
The project was able to determine that the driver support systems and the altered driver behaviour to which they can contribute had the greatest potential for driving on country roads.
Johan Olstam, Researcher