CIRCLES Project Kicks Off Multi-Campus Traffic Smoothing Study

March 11, 2020

 Connected Truck

UC Berkeley and the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) Berkeley are looking to use connected and autonomous vehicle technology to smooth traffic, calm congestion, and reduce fuel use with a $3.5 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cooperative research agreement for the CIRCLES Project.

With Rutgers University-Camden, University of Arizona, Temple University, Vanderbilt University and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), researchers will use a limited number of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) on highways to study how a small number impact traffic under the agreement from DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office’s Energy Efficient Mobility Systems Program.

ITS Director Alexandre Bayen and the FLOW Lab will lead the effort, building on prior collaborative CIRCLES project research of introducing an autonomous car into a traffic circle to calm congestion, smooth traffic flow and reduce fuel consumption. This project aims to demonstrate that these technologies can be successfully transferred to real roadways.

DOE visit“We are very excited to lead this project to further this collaborative research to ultimately contribute to relieving congestion and dependence on fuel,” says Bayen.

Benedetto Piccoli, Lopez Chair Professor, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Rutgers University-Camden, Benjamin Seibold, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, Temple University, Jonathan Sprinkle, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Arizona, Daniel Work, Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University and Brad Freeze, Director, Traffic Operations Division, TDOT round out the team of lead researchers.

The approach focuses on a new energy-aware theory that suggests placing a small number of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) in the traffic stream as traffic controller will improve energy efficiency for all vehicles in the traffic flow.

To evaluate the technology, the team will test the approach on the I-24 Smart Corridor in Tennessee.

“The strategies TDOT is deploying with the I-24 Smart Corridor represent an evolution for how we manage traffic in Tennessee,” says Freeze. “This research project helps support TDOT’s evaluation of these strategies and the understanding of how emerging technologies in transportation can be leveraged to support the safe and efficient flow of traffic.”

Autonomous Vehicle testPrior to this larger demonstration, the team intends to do initial tests of the technology in California.

During these tests, the team expects to see vehicle energy consumption drop by 10 percent when they introduce a small number of vehicles (less than five percent of all vehicles) with connected and automated technology, in the traffic flow.

Bayen says this estimate is based on prior field experiments that demonstrated fuel consumption reductions of up to 40 percent on a single lane track, though researchers expect that number to drop due to the response of other drivers and higher complexity.

This cooperative research agreement is part of $59 million allocated for 43 projects for new and innovative advanced vehicle technologies research.

Funded through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, these projects address priorities in advanced batteries and electric drive systems, co-optimized engine and fuel technologies, materials for more efficient powertrains, and alternative fuels and new energy efficient mobility systems.

“Vehicles drive our national economy,” said DOE Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “At DOE, we support a broad portfolio of technologies, generating the knowledge needed for industry to further develop and commercialize affordable, secure, and reliable transportation systems.”

The average U.S. household spends nearly one-fifth of its total family expenditures on transportation, making it the most expensive spending category after housing. For example, projects selected today will accelerate the development of lithium-metal solid state batteries (materials, tools, and modeling), novel materials and designs for advanced electric motors, and combine new powertrain materials with new combustion regimes to significantly improve fuel economy.