Those who have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey know that the computer on the space ship was named HAL, and that HAL was a thinly veiled reference to IBM. IBM was suspected of trying to take over the world back then, somewhat as Google is sometimes accused now.

That has never stopped IBM, however, and they have continued to innovate over the years, though not always in the public eye. Now an innovation aimed at saving gas and curbing emissions is being developed by IBM, that will control your car engine at the stoplight, shutting down the engine and restarting it at just the right times.

[slashdot]

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t let your engine idle. The USPTO has just published IBM’s patent application for a ‘System and Method for Controlling Vehicle Engine Running State at Busy Intersections for Increased Fuel Consumption Efficiency.’ Here’s how Big Blue explains the invention: ‘The present disclosure is directed to a method for managing engines in response to a traffic signal. The method may comprise establishing communications with participating vehicles; responding to a stop status indicated by the traffic signal, further comprising: receiving a position data from each participating vehicles; determining a queue of participating vehicles stopped at the traffic signal; determining a remaining duration of the stop status; sending a stop-engine notification to the list of participating vehicles stopped at the traffic signal when the remaining duration is greater than a threshold of time; responding to a proceed status indicated by the traffic signal, further comprising: sending a start-engine notification to a first vehicle in the queue; calculating an optimal time for an engine of a second vehicle in the queue to start; and sending the start-engine notification to the second vehicle at the optimal time.’ IBM notes that ‘traffic signals may include, but not limited to, traffic lights at intersections, railway crossing signals, or other devices for indicating correct moments to stop and to proceed.'”

If this continues we may be getting to a point where the automobiles we drive are driven by us only in the most rural areas, and once we get to a main highway the computer assistant takes over, after querying the car to see where it needs to go. This could be very cool for many, giving the “taking the train” level of convenience combined with the availability of personal transportation whenever needed.

All brought about by computer innovation, and HAL.

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