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A Computer Program That Learns How to Save Fuel

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A lot of cars burning a lot of fuel.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are investigating how artificial intelligence might be able to boost the fuel economy of future cars.

Credit: Getty Images

Artificial intelligence (AI) may one day be able to help cars use energy more efficiently, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside.

Cars have computerized engine-management systems that respond to changes in driving conditions, but the introduction of hybrid vehicles has complicated energy management. As hybrid cars use both a gas engine and an electric motor that is recharged by capturing kinetic energy, these vehicles need more management than a traditional gas engine.

To address this problem, researchers are developing an energy-management system that relies on AI to learn from past experiences and account for expected energy consumption.

The algorithm divides the trip into small segments as the journey progresses. During each segment, the system determines whether the vehicle has encountered the same driving conditions before, drawing data from traffic information, the vehicle's speed and location, time of data, and other factors.

In simulations using live traffic information from southern California, researchers compared their algorithm with a basic energy-management system for plug-in hybrids that switches to combustion power when the battery is depleted. The new system was 10.7% more efficient than the conventional method.

The next step for the team will be to work with carmakers to test their algorithm on public roadways.

From The Economist
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