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Federal Agency Grants $32 Million for NEXTCAR Research

The U.S. Department of Energy is issuing grants to 10 projects as a part of its Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) program.

by / November 2, 2016

It seems to be written on the wall that transportation in the future will increasingly rely on renewable resources, as companies have already invested heavily in electronic, biodiesel and hydrogen automobiles.

Autonomous and connected vehicles also look to play a prominent role in transportation’s future. So how will these two budding industries intersect?

That is something the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is hoping to find out. On Nov. 2, the agency issued 10 grants totalling to $32 million for the Next-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Autonomous On-Road Vehicles (NEXTCAR) program.

Connected and autonomous vehicles have garnered much attention lately, with self-driving Ubers rolling around in Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Transportation releasing a policy directing testing and implementation of the new technology. So these new grants will be used to determine how technologies used in connected and autonomous vehicles — such as on-board or cloud-based sensors, data and computational capabilities — can also be used to greatly reduce vehicle energy use.

“As our vehicles become creators and consumers of more and more data,” said ARPA-E Director Ellen D. Williams in a release, “we have a transformative opportunity to put that new information to the additional use of saving energy in our road transportation system.”

By combining the data from connected vehicles, such as acceleration points and sudden brake hot spots, with information from powertrain controls that manage engines and transmissions, energy efficiency solutions could be fully researched. Some of the grants will look into smarter cruise control and vehicle speed harmonization, or energy-saving options for approaching and departing from traffic signals.

The grant recipients are:

  • General Motors
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • The Ohio State University
  • The Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, Riverside
  • The University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota

More information on specific projects is available here (PDF).

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