Green Technology Featured Articles
June 01, 2011

Green GPS Guides Drivers to Fuel-Efficient Routes



A Green GPS (global positioning system), developed by computer scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has calculated the most fuel-efficient routes for a road trip -- saving as much as 13 percent over other routes in initial tests.

“Unlike existing Internet services, such as Google Maps and MapQuest, which provide either the fastest or the shortest route between two points, Green GPS collects the necessary information to compute … the most fuel-efficient route” explained Ph.D. candidate Raghu Kiran Ganti, one of three student researchers working with Principal Investigator and Associate Professor of Computer Science Tarek Abdelzaher. “The most fuel-efficient route between two points may be different from the shortest and fastest routes.” 

For example, taking the fast route on a freeway may not be economical because fuel consumption increases in a non-linear manner with speed, or because the route is longer. Similarly, the shortest route, over city streets, may be objectionable because of downtown congestion and traffic.

The Green GPS runs on a regular cell phone, which links to a car’s computer using an inexpensive, off-the-shelf wireless adapter. The car’s onboard diagnostics system uploads information about engine performance and fuel efficiency to the phone, which uses the data to compute the greenest route.

A grant through the National Science Foundation is funding a large-scale deployment of the service via the University of Illinois’ car fleet. The Green GPS units will be installed on up to 200 University vehicles, including full-size vans that could be carrying 1,000 pounds or more in tools and equipment.

“The less money we can spend on fuel, the more money we can direct toward maintaining other things on campus,” said Pete Varney, director of Transportation & Automotive Services.

In addition, researchers are developing a social network of drivers who can share information about their cars. This will enable drivers who don’t have the technology to use the service based on data collected from cars with the same make, model and year.

“You do not have to be a member of our service or install any sensors in your car to be able to use Green GPS,” suggested Abdelzaher. “Our [mathematical] models predict what your car will consume. All you need to do is type in a source and a destination address on a webpage, as well as the make, model and year of your vehicle. Of course you can choose to be a member too, and upload data from your vehicle using our software, in which case our estimates for your car will be more accurate.” The service will soon be available on handheld GPS devices.

For more information on Green GPS please visit the University’s website. To participate as a driver as part of the study, visit http://green-way.cs.illinois.edu/GreenGPS_files/Ad.pdf


Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

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