Research aims at reducing energy use by appealing to drivers’ altruism


Cedric Langbort, associate professor of Aerospace Engineering at Illinois, and his collaborators will try to appeal to individuals’ concern for the common good in an effort to reduce the energy consumed in city traffic.

Cedric Langbort
Cedric Langbort
CeLangbort’s team is investigating whether travelers, given choices, would pick alternative routes that would ease congestion and/or reduce fuel used. The project is intended to learn whether “we could potentially design a system that, instead of proposing money incentives or tolling people, could expose people’s biases or propensity to be altruistic.”

For instance, he said, “If a driver is going on line and looking for a route direction, an app could suggest another path never taken that is beautiful, would only take 5 minutes more, and would save other travelers some time.”

The project, “Beyond Discrete Choice and Prices in Route Choices – Towards Efficient Revealed Preferences Identification and Nudging in the Multi-utility Paradigm,” has gained a $50,000 seed grant from the Siebel Energy Institute. The institute focuses on synergies between data analytics in energy systems and the emerging Internet-of-Things (IoT) infrastructure in smart and connected communities.

Langbort, who has joint appointments in Electrical Engineering and the Coordinated Science Laboratory, co-founded and co-directs the Center for People & Infrastructures (CPI), which brings together engineers, social scientists, and artists to study and design interactions between modern infrastructures and users.

Hari Sundaram, associate professor of computer science, and Venkata Sriram Siddhardh Nadendla, Coordinated Science Laboratory postdoctoral research associate, join Langbort in the work.