NEWS

24 November 2020

CO2 emissions reduction and the ways Darwin will help

CO2 emissions reduction and the ways Darwin will help

It’s worth giving some thought to the routes we take when we’re driving. Navigation systems will usually recommend the quickest route to your destination, and you might expect the quickest route to produce the least carbon dioxide. After all, if you’re on the road for less time, aren’t you using less fuel?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

It’s worth giving some thought to the routes we take when we’re driving. Navigation systems will usually recommend the quickest route to your destination, and you might expect the quickest route to produce the least carbon dioxide. After all, if you’re on the road for less time, aren’t you using less fuel? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In the spring of 2020, Neste, HERE technologies, PTV Group and VTT collaborated on a small experiment in the Helsinki area to see whether navigation systems recommended the ‘most CO2-friendly route’. The gist of the experiment was this: A car took three different routes from point A to point B: the route suggested by the navigation system, and two other routes. The car repeated the journeys to make sure the results were accurate, as, for example, unusually heavy traffic on one route could throw off the results. The experiment was done 13 times with different starting points and destinations, each time driving three different routes from point A to point B (so 39 routes were driven in total). The Finnish technical research centre VTT analysed the data from each journey. In a third of the cases, the navigation system’s recommended route wasn’t the most environmentally friendly. The most fuel-efficient route tended to be the shortest, which wasn’t necessarily the fastest. You can find Neste’s writeup here. You might have caught that 13 isn’t a large sample size, and it’s hard to draw firm conclusions from small experiments. Still, it’s interesting that such a large proportion of the recommended routes weren’t the most fuel-efficient even in a small sample. There’s clearly room for more work to be done on finding the most environmentally friendly driving routes possible, and that’s one of the areas Darwin is interested in. The Darwin SatCom Lab has been experimenting with using LiDAR sensors to track the carbon dioxide output of its connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs). By switching seamlessly between satellite and 5G, Darwin can remain constantly connected to its vehicles and receive data on the carbon footprint of the fleet in real time. O2, which aims to become net zero carbon by 2025, is supporting this research. Gathering clear, accurate information on the fuel efficiency of routes is essential if we want to train navigation systems to cut down on CO2 emissions. A human driver can choose to take a more environmentally friendly route than the one that navigation software recommends, but it’s obviously harder for a fully autonomous vehicle to overrule the recommended route. If navigation software is provided with information about emissions, and if it’s taught to value the environment as well as speed, it’ll result in lower CO2 emissions for both human drivers and CAVs. Darwin’s ability to track carbon dioxide emissions is something delivery companies can also make use of. We can measure the emissions of all the vehicles in a fleet based on the vehicle’s age, the weight of the load, the type of fuel and so on. We’ll also look at the satellite imagery of the route each vehicle takes, so we can put the data in context and take, for example, carbon capture from trees into account. With all this knowledge, we can give informed advice on how the fleet can reduce its carbon footprint. In some cases, it may be possible to replace a diesel or petrol fleet with electric vehicles, based on the availability of charging points. We can give advice on that as well. In the fight against climate change, the changes that individuals or companies make can add up to make a real difference. We want to help identify and make those changes.
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11 November 2020

The pleasures of the patent application process

The pleasures of the patent application process

Joining a start-up innovation project, I was well aware I would need to roll up my sleeves and have the initiative to work on whatever challenges would appear. This goes well with my personality and, if anything, made the role even more attractive.

However, little did I know that I would come across the opportunity to propose relevant innovation and to actually protect such innovation via a patent application.

Preparing a patent application is an exhilarating experience, especially if you have never gone through this process before.

Joining a start-up innovation project, I was well aware I would need to roll up my sleeves and have the initiative to work on whatever challenges would appear. This goes well with my personality and, if anything, made the role even more attractive. However, little did I know that I would come across the opportunity to propose relevant innovation and to actually protect such innovation via a patent application. Preparing a patent application is an exhilarating experience, especially if you have never gone through this process before. It is one thing to have a great insight for innovation; it is another thing to think through every minute detail and articulate your ideas in a way clear enough for an intellectual property lawyer to translate them into the legal jargon typical of a patent application. As you prepare the detailed background and context needed to explain the innovation, there is a need to dig deep into specific aspects that had only been considered at a high level before. At points you will yearn to discuss the more intricate details with someone else, but you cannot really do it too openly as talking too much can give the innovation away. It does feel lonely at times and it will occasionally get the question ‘Can I really get this done?’ into your head. It is also quite incredible how focused you become on your research and how much you are able to learn in a very short space of time. Then, when you are satisfied with your articulation of the innovation, you need to think objectively about the innovation claims you will make. If you followed a structured path to explain the innovation, the specific claims are a natural byproduct. However, there is the challenge of how broad or how narrow you make the claims. If they are too narrow, there will only be a very limited set of scenarios where the innovation is protected. If they are too broad, they might lose meaning and might be challenged by numerous other parties. Finally, it is time to liaise with the IP lawyers. It is quite impressive how clever and fast to learn these professionals are. You need to take them through your description of the innovation and make sure they understand even the most subtle of the aspects. Things you take for granted are not always obvious, and these professionals will make sure they fully understand what they need to process. Then, at the very end, you get all your ideas, descriptions and claims played back to you in the form of the draft patent application. A few rounds of review and it is all ready for submission. It is an experience I recommend to any fellow technologist and, to be honest, I am already itching to work on the next patent application for the DARWIN project. Rodrigo Barreto, Darwin Lead Architect
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