Click above for a high-res gallery of the Sentience Research Vehicle

How smart does a car have to be before it starts saving you money and reduces your fuel usage? You can make any car a bit smarter by driving more sensibly, but a team of engineers in the UK has decided to give an SUV a few more microchips and let it try and save fuel for you. Dubbed the Sentience intelligent advanced hybrid vehicle, the 15-month-long project melds telematics with technology that is here today to reduce CO2 emissions of the test vehicle by between 5 and 24 percent, dependent on driving style. The collaborators, including Transport Research Laboratory, Ricardo, Jaguar-Land Rover, Ordnance Survey and Orange Business Services, say that by using readily-available technology, the Sentience technology could be applied to vehicles in the UK without too much cost. If it were, the engineers estimate, total savings in the country would be somewhere between 1.2 and 2.9 million barrels of oil per year.

There are three main components to the Sentience technology:

  • Enhanced Acceleration/Deceleration (EAD) in which the vehicle speed is controlled to meet actual and virtual speed limits
  • Optimized Engine Load (OEL) in which the hybrid powertrain systems are managed using advanced route knowledge in such a way as to make optimal use of recharging opportunities
  • Enhanced Air-Conditioning (EAC) control in which temperature set-points are adjusted prior to and following temporary stops.

More details after the jump.

[Source: Ricardo]


Sentience intelligent advanced hybrid vehicle demonstrates huge potential for fuel savings for minimal investment

  • Extended electronic horizon through the integration of vehicle systems with mobile communications and advanced mapping technology
  • Significant reductions in emissions together with substantial fuel savings – of between 5 and 24 per cent, dependent on driving style – demonstrated in track testing
  • Minimal incremental cost of implementation – based on the combination of technologies that are already typically standard fitment on current high-end products and likely to extend across future vehicle ranges
  • Scaling the Sentience vehicle test data to average vehicle usage on roads in mainland UK implies a total fuel saving potential of 14 per cent, equating to between 1.2 and 2.9 million barrels of oil per year

A unique collaboration
The Sentience research vehicle was unveiled today to an invited media audience at TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), who were provided the opportunity of driving the vehicle on the TRL test track in conditions representative of public roads. The event marked the conclusion of the 15 month Sentience research collaboration between Ricardo, Jaguar-Land Rover, TRL, Ordnance Survey and Orange Business Services, with part-funding provided by innovITS, the UK centre of excellence for intelligent transport systems and sustainable mobility. The project has been based on extending the electronic horizon of the vehicle using internet-enabled mobile communications, GPS, advanced mapping and other sophisticated real-time navigational technologies, aimed at reducing the exhaust emissions and CO2 output of future vehicles in a cost-effective manner. "Sentience has been a unique collaboration between three industries who would not normally work together", explains Sentience project director, Tom Robinson, of Ricardo. "The results speak for themselves in demonstrating the potential synergy to be realised by connecting the existing on-board systems of vehicles with mobile communications and advanced mapping technologies." Three particular areas of focus for Sentience have been on Enhanced Acceleration/Deceleration (EAD) in which the vehicle speed is controlled to meet actual and virtual speed limits; Optimized Engine Load (OEL) in which the hybrid powertrain systems are managed using advanced route knowledge in such a way as to make optimal use of recharging opportunities; and Enhanced Air-Conditioning (EAC) control in which temperature set-points are adjusted prior to and following temporary stops. Much of the work of the project team has concentrated on the first of these strategies as Robinson explains: "We wanted to demonstrate the potential benefits of implementing EAD as we felt this held the prospect of the most substantial fuel savings and hence CO2 reductions. With fuel savings demonstrated on the test track of up to 24 per cent and at least 5 per cent in evening based on-road tests, this was a sensible primary focus for our work, but there remains further clear potential in the implementation of OEL and EAC strategies, as well as in the integration with navigation technologies such as intelligent route guidance."

EAD: An advanced form of adaptive cruise control
EAD is implemented on the Sentience demonstrator vehicle through an advanced form of adaptive cruise control linked to the hybrid powertrain system of the vehicle. Based on route information – which could in a production setting be integrated with a commercial navigation system – the Sentience vehicle will calculate and follow an optimal driving strategy. Its control system adjusts vehicle speed, acceleration and deceleration via its adaptive cruise control. Using GPS and mapping data it takes into account the speed limits, traffic conditions, the road's gradient and features including bends and even speed bumps, as well as less predictable road features including roundabouts and traffic lights. At any time, of course, the system can be manually over-ridden by the driver. Moreover, the data provided by the mapping and navigational systems is also used to optimize the recharging strategy of the hybrid's batteries, thus increasing the potential availability of electric-only mode in urban environments. Although not implemented on the project vehicle, the EAD implementation has the necessary in-built links to work with real-time traffic information in order to update its strategy according to prevailing conditions and areas of congestion. In track based tests, the EAD strategy alone has demonstrated fuel savings of between 5 and 24 per cent depending upon traffic conditions and route topology. In evening tests on public roads in 'real-world' conditions in the vicinity of TRL, achieved mean savings at all times in excess of 5 per cent.

Enhanced mapping data
A crucial enabler of Sentience technology is the availability of enhanced mapping data based on the OS MasterMap Integrated Transport Network layer - Ordnance Survey's national transport dataset. This extends beyond basic route topology to include details such as gradients, curves, speed limits and probabilistic speed limiting features such as junctions, crossings, schools, traffic calming measures and traffic lights. Specific routes have been captured for the TRL test track as well as a number of pre-defined routes on public roads close to Ricardo, TRL and Orange development facilities. As such the vehicle control system has advanced and actionable knowledge of the road ahead and can use this to optimise its approach. Mapping including this level of enhanced data is available on a large scale by mapping suppliers such as Ordnance Survey.

The human-machine interface (HMI)
A key visual element of the implementation of Sentience within the demonstrator vehicle is a human-machine interface (HMI) developed by Orange and based on a Nokia N95 mobile phone. This device also provides the communications link that delivers route data for the vehicle's control system. The HMI provides appropriate feedback to the driver – for example, of the prevailing speed limit at the vehicle's current location – as well as input configuration information. To provide an integration infrastructure for the demonstration vehicle a telecoms protocol was defined and implemented by Ricardo and Orange for communication between the HMI and the Ricardo rCube rapid prototyping controller used to supervise the Sentience EAD functions. The design of the HMI architecture was deliberately intended to accommodate the integration of real-time traffic data in a future implementation.

National implications of Sentience technology
The Sentience project has been careful to represent all principal types of UK road – including motorway, urban and rural 'A' roads, and minor roads – both within the simulation and modelling work that preceded the design of the vehicle control systems, and also within the testing carried out at TRL.

Using the results of fuel savings achieved on the TRL test track, the routes driven were scaled using Department for Transport data for vehicle-kilometres driven on different road types in the UK. This analysis demonstrated a potential total UK fuel saving of 14 per cent, equating to between 1.2 and 2.9 million barrels of oil per year.

A low cost of implementation
Despite its considerable fuel saving and CO2 reduction advantages, Sentience represents a potentially very low cost of implementation. In a vehicle already equipped with a phone and GPS (e.g. for a navigation system) then no additional hardware would be needed for a production implementation. If these systems were not pre-installed, then the project team estimates that these functions could be provided for a unit cost of around €20 in high volumes. Extra control and integration software would be needed but the processing and storage needs would be modest and likely to be readily integrated into almost any existing vehicle architecture. The availability of high resolution mapping would be a prerequisite for implementation but given the increased availability of such data, the project team estimate that a Sentience based system could be put into production in approximately 3-4 years based on technology availability for model year development programmes in around 18 months.

Longer term potential of Sentience
While Sentience has focused on its EAD strategy and also demonstrated the potential of OEL and EAC, the control architecture demonstrated is clearly expandable to other potential intelligent transport system applications. These include vehicle to infrastructure and vehicle to vehicle cooperative driver assistance systems, enhanced positioning systems such as lane detection. EAD in particular could be enhanced through integration with vision based systems for road sign detection and junction/topology recognition. Most immediately the architecture lends itself to integration with dynamic traffic routing to further improve the consistency of traffic flow and individual journey times, and hence deliver yet further fuel and CO2 savings.



Ricardo: With technical centres and offices in the UK, USA, Germany, the Czech Republic, China, Japan and Korea, Ricardo plc is a leading independent technology provider and strategic consultant to the world's transportation sector industries. The company's engineering expertise ranges from vehicle systems integration, controls, electronics and software development, to the latest driveline and transmission systems and gasoline, diesel, hybrid and fuel cell powertrain technologies. Its customers include the world's major vehicle, engine and transmission manufacturers, tier 1 suppliers and leading motorsport teams. Ricardo is committed to excellence and industry leadership in people, technology and knowledge; approximately 70 per cent of its employees are highly qualified multi-disciplined professional engineers and technicians. A public company, Ricardo plc posted sales of £197.7 million in financial year 2008 and is a constituent of the FTSE techMark 100 index – a group of innovative technology companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. For more information, visit

Orange: Orange is a key brand of the France Telecom Group, providing mobile, broadband, fixed, business and entertainment services across Europe. It is one of the world's leading telecommunications operators with more than 150 million customers on five continents. In June 2006, Orange became the single brand for mobile, broadband and multi-play offers. In addition, Orange Business Services became the new banner for business communications solutions. Orange Business Services is present in 166 countries with network reach in 220. In the UK, Orange provides high quality GSM coverage to 99% of the UK population. At the end of March 31, 2007, Orange had over 16.5 million customers in the UK - 15.1 million active mobile customers and over 1.5 million Internet customers. Orange and any other Orange product or service names included in this material are trade marks of Orange Personal Communications Services Limited. Further information about Orange and France Telecom can be found on the Orange website at or the France Telecom at

innovITS: InnovITS was formed in May 2005 by BERR (formerly the DTi) to help the UK to become a leading centre of excellence in transport telematics for sustainable mobility through recognition of InnovITS as the UK gateway for industry expertise in the ITS field. InnovITS achieves this through the analysis of UK and world ITS markets, through creation of networks, through promotion of best practice, through co-ordination of collaborative projects and through high quality advice to the UK industry.

TRL: TRL is an internationally recognised centre of excellence in transport issues. Based in Crowthorne, Berkshire, UK, TRL employs around 450 staff with many world renowned experts covering a range of disciplines. With leading edge expertise in understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts of transport, a recent project in Slovenia saw experts from TRL's Centre of Sustainability, leading a Government Group looking at the implementation of hydrogen technology. Other key areas of expertise include traffic management, planning and control, road network and vehicle safety, investigations and risk management and transport infrastructure. Facilities include a self contained road network, 3.8km test track, Simulation Training and Research Centre housing both a car and truck simulator, impact test facilities, structures hall and indoor pavement test facility. For more information, please visit

Ordnance Survey: Ordnance Survey is Great Britain's national mapping agency, providing the most accurate and up-to-date geographic data relied on by government, business and individuals. Its flagship digital products make up the OS MasterMap family, one of the most advanced and comprehensive analytical tools of its generation. With topography, transport, address and imagery layers, it provides consistent information down to address, street and building level. With almost half a billion features, OS MasterMap offers unparalleled accuracy and consistency.

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