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Urban Mobility: Breaking the Chain of Urban Traffic Congestion

A long line-up of cars creating a traffic jam. It's a familiar sight on long holiday weekends in most places around the globe. On holidays, the cause seems obvious: everybody is trying to get out of (or back into) town at the same time.

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2010/07/19

Nissan's Vehicle Timetable Tool -- Knowing Your Arrival Time

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In an effort to curb traffic congestion, Nissan has developed a "Vehicle Timetable" system, which can provide drivers with the exact time from departure to destination . While many "mapping" sites can give qualified trip estimates along with route guidance, Vehicle Timetable takes it several steps farther -- including being able to predict traffic conditions for future trips.

"For example, say you wanted to drive from Yokohama to the mountains on your next day off. The Vehicle Timetable system will then show at a glance whether you should leave at 8 a.m., earlier or later. The system makes predictions on traffic volume, calculates the amount of driving time required for each departure time, and displays the results in an easy-to-understand graph, showing the fastest route to your destination," says Futami. Though initially being implemented in Japan, it is hoped that the system will be extended to other countries in the future.

The Vehicle Timetable makes use of "probe data," which is collected from the cell phones of drivers travelling on Japan's roads and other parts of the nation's communications network. Probe data contains information such as a vehicle's acceleration, braking, speed, and engine RPM.

"It is not feasible to gather and make calculations using probe data from all vehicles travelling on all roads throughout Japan. So, the system uses sections of the collected probe data in combination with other traffic data from areas across the country," Futani explains.

The use of the Vehicle Timetable is not restricted to Nissan customers and is available to use by anyone over the Internet. "At the start of service this past May, the margin of error in arrival times was 10%," he adds. "In other words, for routes having a calculated arrival time of one hour, the margin of error has been around six minutes. As more people use the service, the quality will improve even more. Cars have now become vehicles that can tell time."

Addressing Environmental Problems by Reducing Traffic Congestion

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Nissan's ongoing efforts to help reduce traffic jams is not just about drivers' convenience, or sanity, however. There are critical environmental and economic factors that come into play as well. One of the goals of the Vehicle Timetable is to reduce CO2 levels by easing congestion.

Nissan, in partnership with the City of Yokohama, is working on a project called Yokohama Mobility Project Zero (YMPZ), which is designed to help make Yokohama a model environmental city. One of the initiatives of YMPZ has been to make the Vehicle Timetable available to use by anyone on their website .

Another initiative of YMPZ is the active promotion of electric vehicles. Not only will CO2 levels benefit from zero-emission vehicles, but the possibilities of solving traffic congestion may also be hidden in a future where electric vehicles have become mainstream. For example, Nissan's new electric vehicle, LEAF™, will house a communications module that connects with a data center.

As more LEAF™ vehicles are driven on the roads, more traffic data will be gathered, increasing the quantity of probe data used by the Vehicle Timetable system, and thereby leading to greater accuracy in predicting arrival times. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry predicts that 50% of all vehicles will be zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and 90% of all vehicles will be zero-emission vehicles by 2050.

"The most important thing is making the conscious effort to reduce traffic congestion, as well as making good use of available technologies," says Futami. "Reducing traffic congestion and our impact on the environment through the use of the Vehicle Timetable and other technologies is something that all drivers should be aware of."
As IT and ITS Development Expert Leader and Vehicle Timetable Project Supervisor, Futami has taken part in the development of internal LANs for cars, air bags, Xenon headlamps, keyless entry, Birdview Navigation and the CARWINGS systems. His hobbies include people watching at Starbucks. His favorite actress is Hideko Takamine.

New Terminology for Nissan Technology

Vehicle Timetable

A service used to calculate the shortest route and travel time between departure and arrival points. Margin of error for arrival times is below 10%. Traffic conditions are calculated in real-time using a combination of probe data from vehicles on the road and techniques to provide complentary data. The service was launched in May 2010.

Probe Data

Real-time information gathered from vehicles on the road. Nissan gathers data on not only where and when vehicles are travelling, but also fuel consumption and other data. For example, in Hokkaido and other cold regions, data on tires that have slipped on roads is also gathered, which could be used to issue warnings about those roads to other drivers.

YMPZ (Yokohama Mobility Project Zero)

A project designed to help realize a model city for the protection of the environment, founded by the partnership of Nissan and the City of Yokohama. Through various initiatives such as environmentally conscious driving manners, live testing of the Vehicle Timetable, a traffic congestion reduction system, and the promotion of electric vehicles, the project's aim is to make Yokohama a zero-emission city.

Nissan LEAF™

Nissan's first electric vehicle. Scheduled to be released in Japan and the United States in late 2010, LEAF™ can travel approximiately 160 kilometers (100 miles) on a full charge. LEAF™ is a 5-door 5-seat hatchback model. Length: 4445mm (175.0 inches) Width : 1770mm (69.7 inches) Height: 1550mm (61.0 inches) Wheelbase: 2700mm (106.3 inches)