Traffic congestion doesn’t just raise your blood pressure; it’s a drag on the economy and it causes a lot of unnecessary pollution. A recent study showed that congestion wasted 1.9 billion gallons of fuel in 2010, and when it all adds up, drivers waste roughly $100 billion it lost time and fuel because of traffic jams. The best way to ease congestion is to drive less, bike and walk more, and to use public transportation when it’s available. But beyond that, it makes sense to look at how our current driving behavior contributes to congestion. That’s the problem that Honda has been tackling, and now the Japanese automaker says it has developed technology that can help prevent traffic jams.
Most new cars come with navigation systems that, when synced with satellites, can provide real-time traffic information (and if you don’t have a nav system, you can probably access that data on your phone). But that’s not what we’re talking about. Honda’s new anti-congestion technology is aimed at changing driver behavior, rather than avoiding existing traffic jams. The thing is, traffic jams aren’t always caused by an accident or a bottleneck; in some cases, drivers cause traffic to stop and start by accelerating too much, and jamming on the brakes, or a combination thereof. And that’s what Honda seeks to fix.
The system that Honda is developing monitors drivers’ acceleration and deceleration patterns to determine whether the driver’s behavior is likely to cause congestion. Using a color-coded display, the system provides feedback and encourages smooth driving to ease the pressure of acceleration or deceleration on trailing vehicles. The system could also be connected to a cloud server to sync one car’s driving patterns with the cars ahead or behind it using an Adaptive Cruise Control System, which would maintain a constant distance between cars.
The aim of all of this is of course to improve fuel efficiency, and to save time and money. According to a press release, recent test results showed that the system could increase the average speed of cars stuck in traffic by about 23 percent, and tests showed that fuel efficiency was improved by about 8 percent. It’s hard to say how far we are from actually implementing a system like this, but it sure sounds promising.