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John DeCicco talks connected vehicles for WEMU’s Green Room

Energy Institute research professor John DeCicco, an energy and transportation expert, was featured on WEMU’s The Green Room, along with UMEI faculty affiliate Jonathan Levine and postdoctoral fellow Louis Merlin, both of Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Timed to the opening of the Mobility Transformation Center’s MCity project, Green Room host Barbara Lucas explored the promise of connected vehicle technology- and the planning and consideration required to make them a practical success. Below are excerpts from her interview.

Barbara Lucas:  The University of Michigan researchers I speak with are full of hopes about this technology.  Dr. Louis Merlin is an urban planner, and an avid bicyclist.  As a bicycle rider, how are you going to feel with having driverless cars on the road, are you going to feel better or worse? 

Merlin: I will feel better. I think driverless cars are more likely to obey the rules of the road, go the speed limit, yield to bicyclists.

Barbara Lucas:  Dr. Merlin notes that driverless cars will use less gas. 

Merlin:  A certain percentage of fuel use comes from how we drive, how aggressively we drive. If you’re light on the gas pedal and light on the brake you will use five or 10% less gas.

Barbara Lucas:  He says while humans find it hard to drive at a slow, steady pace, driverless cars will do so automatically.  He tells me about “platooning,” which will increase the safety and efficiency of highway driving. 

Merlin:  On the highway, if every vehicle is automated you can have them very close together, safely. These vehicles are all talking to each other electronically, constantly.  If the vehicle in the front brakes, the vehicle 10 vehicles back already knows that vehicle is braking, instantly, and can brake at the same time at the same rate.

Barbara Lucas:  I also spoke with Dr. John DeCicco, a research professor at the University of Michigan Energy Institute.  He says with fewer crashes, cars can be lighter.  Smaller engines will help with efficiency too.

John DeCicco:  We could see horsepower going the way of the horse.  Right now cars are very overpowered and there’s kind of this car culture, gear-head culture, that perpetuates a horsepower war. 

Barbara Lucas:  He says another major game changer will be a move away from the car ownership model, towards an Uber-like rental system.  Dr. Merlin agrees.

Listen to or read the full story at The Green Room.