Robot Racers Spur Fuel Efficiency


Categorie: Robots, Testing, Vehicles |

My dad, a General Motors engineer based in Detroit, called this morning to tell me he was standing in front of the company’s “Boss” robot — a modified Tahoe — that won the $2-million first prize in the Nov. 3 Urban Challenge race sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The automaker has hailed Boss as a step towards increasing automation in personal vehicles. Cue press release!

GM is focused on reinventing the automobile in ways that enhance driving safety and  reduce traffic congestion, energy consumption and emissions,” Burns continued.  “We look forward to integrating the technology we used in this race into our cars and trucks, and to ensuring future personal transportation is sustainable.”

Sustainable as in more fuel-efficient. But how does automation boost efficiency?

A robotic autopilot could choose the most fuel-effective route based on a given destination. Plus a group of intelligent cars could automatically form up on each other, drafting in turn to cut fuel consumption in half. Or, for drivers who don’t want to take their hands off the wheel, robotic controls could improve automatic transmissions. Bottom line, according to one blog (referencing a journal article):

Using telematics, i.e., traffic information collected using a sensor network, a car with a standard combustion engine and intelligent control that utilized the received information was as efficient as a hybrid car while it outperformed a standard car by as much as 20% in fuel efficiency during urban driving.

There are obvious military applications. In an age when logistics networks represent the military’s most vulnerable flank, cutting fuel consumption takes trucks off the road and saves lives.

Check out Urban Challenge below:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Robot convoy, ho!
Robot race: pit stop
Robot race: Oshkosh crash
Robot race: anything can happen
Robo-legs kick butt
Firms fight over robot fighters


4 Responses to “Robot Racers Spur Fuel Efficiency”

  1. Dave Narby says:

    This is pure crap… I mean, propaganda from the automakers.
    I routinely get 40% or more MPGs over stock with simple modifications (and at 65 MPH on the highway!).
    If they were really serious about fuel efficiency we’d all be driving depletive hybrids (with high-temperature, high-efficiency turbo-compound diesels with hydrogen injection for onboard generators) with regenerative braking, ultra low drag bodies and composite frames and bodies.
    All of this could easily get your average commuter car above 70MPG, your average SUV could probably get 40MPGs.
    Think I’m nuts? All the things I’ve listed are very well understood by engineers. And remember, this is by someone who managed to squeeze 31.5 MPG out of a Dodge Caravan that’s only supposed to get 22 MPG.
    How did I do it?
    Add 3 ounces of acetone and 21 ounces of toluene per every ten gallons of gas.
    I’ve been running acetone in my vehicles for years and umpteen thousands of miles with only good effects. Toluene is used commercially in gasoline formulation as an octane booster, so you’re already burning it (adding your own toluene is much cheaper than paying for it at the pump). This will boost your fuel economy by 20-30%.
    Run all synthetic motor oil (this also allows 15k miles between oil changes).
    Install a chin spoiler that reaches 2/3 of the way to the ground to prevent as much air as possible from experiencing the aerodynamic nightmare that is the typical car’s undercarriage (but not too low, or you’ll create downforce and more drag – 2/3 seems to be the ‘sweet spot’).
    Overpressurize your tires 5lbs. This is safer than underinflating, and I’ve never had a blowout despite many pothole strikes at speed (and your tires will last longer as well).
    Simple. Easy. 43% increase in MPGs. Don’t tell me it’s not possible, because I do it ALL THE TIME.

  2. Foreign.Boy says:

    Dave Narby,
    I’m sure full comsumption would decrease with manual transmissions too :P

  3. Mark says:

    Little did I know you were “working” when I called. Thanks for the props!

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