'Ghost Vehicles' Show How Autonomous Cars Can Save Energy

Mechanical engineering professor Ardalan Vahidi and his team at Clemson University  have found a way to help self-driving vehicles anticipate the behavior of other vehicles to reduce braking. Their research shows that the less a vehicle brakes, the less energy it wastes through heat and the more energy efficient it becomes. The algorithms the team has created resulted in energy savings ranging from 8-23%. The team tested its algorithms on two separate autonomous cars, a gas-powered Mazda and an electric Nissan, both connected to the same wireless network, allowing them to send and receive data, such as speed and heading. The researchers used computer simulations to create “ghost vehicles" in front of and behind the Mazda and Nissan, making them think they were in traffic. The Mazda and Nissan saved more energy when following autonomous ghost vehicles than the ghost vehicles driven by simulated human drivers.