Data logged from Nissan cars can help improve design of future highways

Car data logs improve Norwegian highway design

Norwegian researchers are using data logged from Nissan car systems to assess fuel and energy consumption of vehicles travelling on a future highway.

Instead of relying on average figures from Europe that are usually used to calculate vehicle needs on highways and roads in construction, the team from the Scandinavian research institute SITNEF is using real-time data made available to the researchers by Nissan last year.

By accessing information about the cars’ innermost systems, the team believes better decisions regarding construction of highways on national level could be made. The first project they have decided to use the new smart data capture technology on is the planned European Route E39 between Trondheim and Kristiansand. With its curves, ascents and descents, toll stations and tunnels, the foreseen highway is rather difficult to evaluate using conventional means.

“We believe, for example, that it is difficult to predict energy consumption on twisting Norwegian roads based on European average figures,” said SITNEF scientist Tomas Levin. “So in order to perform calculations for the new E39 we select existing road sections which resemble the new one and carry out our measurements on these.”

Drivers participating in the project have been given smartphones and tablets enabling them to collect valuable data for use in research. Data are collected when drivers travel on pre-selected routes, similar to the one in construction. For these purposes, the researchers have divided the road network up into small homogeneous sections of around 200 metres, carrying out measurements at least once per second.

“Modern vehicles represent a goldmine of information about how cars are used and the infrastructure they utilise. If cars were able to Tweet everything they know, we could tackle many exciting challenges,” says Tomas Levin.

“We are still looking into the same problems as before in the field of transport, but smart data capture provides a completely new source of precise data,” explained Astrid Bjørgen Sund. “We can identify problems covering larger geographical areas and with sufficient data we can provide a better foundation for the major transport-related decisions which must be made.”

The team considers Nissan’s decision to make the data available for research purposes ground-breaking and hopes more car makers would eventually follow.

“We obtained access to invaluable data, and are now able to see into the very brain of a car and measure such things as how much energy is consumed in propulsion and climate control, and how much is generated during braking,” said Bjørgen Sund.

Eventually, the team would like to create a databank that would help engineers to make more informed decisions regarding future projects.

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