Benjamin Seibold, a mathematics associate professor in the College of Science and Technology, is part of a major effort using connected and autonomous vehicle technology to smooth traffic, calm congestion and reduce fuel use.

Seibold is part of the CIRCLES Project funded by a $3.5 million U.S. Department of Energy cooperative research agreement, which brings together researchers from UC Berkeley and the Institute of Transportation Studies Berkeley, Rutgers University-Camden, University of Arizona, 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 their impacts on traffic. The approach focuses on a new energy-aware theory that suggests placing a small number of CAVs in the traffic stream as traffic controller, energy efficiency will improve for all vehicles in the traffic flow.

"Stop-and-go traffic is a ubiquitous feature of urban traffic flow, wasting energy and increasing emissions," said Seibold, who anticipates bringing aboard several Temple undergraduate and doctoral students to work on the project. "However, with a few modern and well-controlled automated vehicles, we may see an end to those stop-and-go waves, and instead get dense but smoothly flowing traffic."

To evaluate the technology, the team will test the approach on the I-24 Smart Corridor in Tennessee. Managed by TDOT, the corridorĀ integrates freeway and arterial roadway elements, along with physical, technological, and operational improvements, to provide drivers accurate, real-time information and to actively manage traffic.

Prior 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.

Since arriving at Temple in 2009, one of Seibold's research foci has been traffic flow modeling, particularly "phantom" traffic jams or "jamitons." According to Seibold, by synchronizing autonomous vehicles so that they can communicate and share certain types of information, such as traffic density and flow velocity, with each other, the vehicles could react in a way that alters the flow of traffic on the highway.

The DOE Circles 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's Energy Vehicle Technologies Office, 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 U.S. Department of Energy 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."

-Greg Fornia