‘Smart’ car group promises less oil use, better air

New connected cars and trucks that talk to each other and better manage resources could save hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and dramatically reduce air pollution, supporters said.

A report out on Thursday from the Intelligent Transportation Society of America promised that new technologies have the ability “to make our transportation systems more efficient, less costly, and more environmentally friendly.”

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For instance, tools that give drivers more information about road conditions and traffic through the Web could result in people using 420 million fewer barrels of oil over 10 years, which adds up to reduction of 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — the main greenhouse gas emitted by humans.

Additionally, upgrading infrastructure and traffic system technology could save another 117 million barrels of oil over a decade, it promised.

As an example of those infrastructure changes, the group pointed to Los Angeles County, which implemented a new program to ensure that traffic lights on major thoroughfares were coordinated so people did not have to stop and start at every block. That cut down on travel time by 31.3 million hours, the trade group found, and saved 38 million gallons of gas per year.

In addition, the Smithsonian Institution implemented a system to use GPS tracking and wireless connections in the 1,500 vehicles that it operates to monitor maintenance needs and steer drivers towards better routes. That helped reduce fuel consumption by more than half over 2005.

Supporters of connected cars have cheered their potential to make travel more efficient and safer.

In order to use those technologies, however, many cars rely on chunks of the nation’s airwaves that the Federal Communications Commission is currently considering opening up for Wi-Fi devices as well. Connected car supporters have worried that using the same frequency band for multiple purposes could cause problems for improved transportation.