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Revolutionizing car technology through smart sensing

Foto: Christine F. Solbakken

From the NILU annual report 2015: Although European air quality has improved considerably during the last decades, it is still estimated that more than 1,500 deaths each year in Norway can be connected to bad air quality.

By Sonja Grossberndt, Scientist at NILU

Most people know they can be affected by bad air quality when outside or close to traffic. But did you know that you can also be exposed to pollutants inside your car through the ventilation system?

This relatively new research area is now addressed through the ECLECTIC project, opening NILU’s way into new markets.


ECLECTIC stands for “Enabling Clean Air Environment in Cars and Smart City Services through Big Data Processing” and its main goal is to reduce the exposure to air pollution for drivers and passengers inside their cars. Equally important, ECLECTIC will also reduce the emissions from cars at places where the concentrations are high or in “green zones,” where good air quality is anticipated, like close to schools and kindergartens. With the preparatory work already begun in 2015, NILU is responsible for all developments of the project.

Smart cars

– We will develop a new technology called “smart air inlet”, explains Morgan Kjølerbakken, scientist at NILU and responsible for the technology development. – Outdoor air quality data obtained from all cars equipped with this technology is going to be combined with data from local air quality measurements, traffic flow and air quality modelling based maps. The new technology will cause the car to adjust the air inside the cabin automatically: incoming air can thus be reduced when the air quality is bad, and increased when the air quality is good. The data will also be used in our so called “clean air route planner.” This tool will help car drivers to plan their trips by choosing routes that are less polluted.

Green zone adapter

– But we can do even more with our technology, continues Kjølerbakken. – The real-time air quality information will also be used to adapt the driving mechanism of the car to its environment. For example, if a hybrid car is passing a school, the ECLECTIC technology will make the car switch into electric mode automatically. Or if a fuel driven vehicle is driving along a park, the new technology can cause a switch to “eco mode.” This will dramatically reduce air pollution and help create a cleaner environment.ECLECTIC aims to be the service provider for all car manufacturers, but wishes to approach new technology players in the field – such as Google and Apple – in the not too distant future. This is a project with large corporate/innovation potential, where there is currently little or no competition.

Research and innovation

– This project is not only an exciting exercise, but will also give us great opportunities to improve nowadays technologies, remarks Kjølerbakken enthusiastically. – We will have entirely new opportunities on the market, and get to apply NILU’s research in innovative ways. I am very much looking forward to this project!

ECLECTIC-prosjektet, illustrasjon
Green zones: If a hybrid car is passing a school, the ECLECTIC technology will make the car switch into electric mode automatically.

ECLECTIC is coordinated by Kjeller Innovation with NILU and the Norwegian Public Road Administration (Statens vegvesen) as partners. The project obtains funding from the Research Council of Norway through the FORNY2020 program.

Read the NILU annual report 2015