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Department of Energy Gives SwRI Nearly $3 Million For 'Connected' Cars

Chris Eudaily
TPR News

The U.S. Department of Energy will give San Antonio-based Southwest Research Institute $2.9 million. It's to create new uses for wireless technologies used in connected and driverless cars. SwRI thinks it can reduce energy and gas use by 20 percent.

Experts believe cars in the future are going to communicate with each other, traffic infrastructure, and systems like stop lights. Some of these technologies already exist in some fashion. 

Southwest Research has been developing fuel efficiency technologies for a long time, and it thinks it can reduce energy and fuel use by creating the algorithms and software that will change how the networked car of the future interacts.

For instance, instead of a driver jamming on the brakes to quickly stop at a red light, the car will know before a human when that light is about to turn red. The car will brake, change its route, or adjust its speed.

SwRI's Scott Hotz says the big savings will come from your car knowing what is happening 150 cars ahead.

"Places where it is going to gain the improvement is by having foresight, by having a preview of what is happening ahead of you...what you can see, but also further ahead, says Hotz from SwRI's Ann Arbor office.

He says the Department of Energy money will allow SwRI to build the algorithms and test them over the course of the three-year project. The project is paid for by DOE but is part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency's (ARPA-E) Next-Generation Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles(NEXTCAR) program.

SwRI will demonstrate the technology on the Toyota Prius hybrid. Toyota North America and the University of Michigan are partners on the project.

Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org