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Transportation Patents Power

GM Patents Data Mining Method For Refining the Chevy Volt 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the data-driven-approach-get-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A patent application published yesterday may show an important tool that GM is using to refine future models of the Volt and especially the future size of the Volt's battery. The application is directed to uploading driving habit data from a plurality of vehicles to a remote server via a telematics system (e.g., such as GM's OnStar) and then providing alternate fuel-related analysis based on different vehicle profiles (e.g., an EV with a 40-mile range). The application contemplates that this analysis may be valuable to vehicle designers or to operators for comparison purposes."
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GM Patents Data Mining Method For Refining the Chevy Volt

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  • Effective range is for what users MAY do, not what they DO do. Just because I only drive 40 miles a day 99 out 100 days doesn't mean I dont want to drive 400 miles on that 100th day.
    • Yes, but looking statistically at what a large segment of people actually drive may help them market vehicles more effectively.
      Lets say I can buy a car for 1/2 the price but it wouldn't work for long trips. For that kind of savings I could simply rent a longer haul vehicle for such trips. You may not want to buy such a car, but if there is demand for it, there is reason to produce it.

      • It's a chicken and egg problem. If I know my car s good only for 400 miles, I won't schedule trips with it longer than that. Does GM ten get to say "hey, our range is enough for 95% of customers" ? (the reste being... distracted people ^^)

        • I think its more an issue of finding your niche market. If only 10% car owners feel your car is suitable for them, you may have a problem. If that same 10% feel that your car is the absolute perfect fit and they wouldn't buy anything else, you've just got 1/10 cars on the road being yours. There is certainly a niche market for cars that won't take a long trip, but it doesn't mean its an impossible sale just because you "obarthelemy" don't want it. I could say the same thing about say "cargo vans" I don't n

      • by Bartles (1198017)

        Or I could get a Prius for half the price of a volt, and not worry about it.

        • I wouldn't say half the price, closer to 50%. I just priced out a reasonable Volt vs. a reasonable Prius:

          Volt: $41K
          Prius $28K

          Doesn't seem worth it even if the Volt is a better car.

    • But you will very likely be driving only 40 miles on the 100th day too. It is all about probability, and in your particular case it would be something like (not exactly) a Binomial distribution.

      But yeah, I understand your point, it is not trivial to take the long road trips into account. I can think of a couple of ways to handle them but the have their problems.

      • It's too bad that GM has blatantly lied about the Volt from the start. Google up the photos of its introduction, and the banners that say "230MPG". It is actually rated at 32 city / 36 highway, and its range is only 40 miles under optimal conditions. Running the air conditioner or driving in stop-and-go traffic lead some industry magazines to say the effective range was only about 25 miles on a charge.

        The probability is that no one is going to be making all electric trips, and no one will be making electric

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          My (and MANY others') daily commute round trip is under 25 miles, so the probability of someone making an all electric trip is 1.

          Not that I would get one, because it is still way overpriced, and I'd much prefer driving something *fun* on my relatively short daily commute...

          • Before we get to bogged down in excuses and obfuscation, the point is that GM, at the time they were about to beg for government bailouts, led us all to believe they were producing a breakthrough vehicle - not a low rent Prius, or something altogether inferior in energy consumption to diesel economy cars that have been available for decades.

            • by Rei (128717)

              Um.... huh?

              Okay, first off, to look at the impact of a Volt, we need to first break down a driving profile. For most people, and in particular most volt customers (i.e., not a random sampling of Americans, but of people who bought it because they felt it fit their lifestyle), almost all of their trips will be on electric, and a solid majority of their miles will be on electric (note that the % of miles on gasoline will be much larger than the % of trips on gasoline, since gasoline trips are long distance).

            • by Dahamma (304068)

              There is no obfuscation or excuses, unless that's what you call correcting your mistakes. The FACT is, if you want to use it as a relatively short distance commuter car, it IS effectively an electric vehicle. There is no debate about that. And it's a fact that millions of people commute to work in a range where they'd be able to take advantage of that.

              Did they overstate the electric range? Maybe, but that's probably because they used the same flawed system to calculate as all of the other mileage-overst

        • My drive to the office is about 10 miles a week, everyplace I routinely go is within 5 miles or less, with the exception of 1-3 trips to the coast or road trips out of State. If I had a Volt, the vast majority of my driving on a per trip basis would be pure electric. So the 40 mile range is not an issue for me that a 200 mile range would not be, since I either drive 5 miles or 500 miles the majority of the time. The catch is two-fold for me.

          First I looked at a Volt and the build quality appears to be what

      • by FauxPasIII (75900)

        > it is not trivial to take the long road trips into account

        It is *kinda* trivial. ;) Back when I lived in dorms and then apartments, I kept a minivan because I had to move frequently, and needed the cargo room. Shortly after I bought a home, my van died and I was shopping for a vehicle. A week or so into the process it occurred to me that I no longer required moving capacity, so I was able to buy an ultra-compact and save buckets of money and fuel. Once a year or so if I find a piece of furniture or

    • by maxume (22995)

      For something like the Volt, with a somewhat large battery and a gas tank, the 40 miles on 99 days helps them size the battery and the 400 miles on the 1 day helps them size the tank.

    • Effective range is for what users MAY do, not what they DO do. Just because I only drive 40 miles a day 99 out 100 days doesn't mean I dont want to drive 400 miles on that 100th day.

      Fair enough.

      But are you willing to pay an extra several thousand dollars for a battery that'll get you the extra miles for that one day out of 100? Or would you be just as happy simply re-charging a few times along the way?

      Does GM really need to outfit all its cars with batteries that can go 400 miles? Or can it maybe offer a model with a 200 mile battery instead?

      Does GM need to focus on developing bigger batteries, because everybody winds up wanting to drive 400 miles? Or would that money be better spen

    • by bberens (965711)
      I think the model we'll move to is electric only for the daily commute and rent something for long trips. If total electric cars can come into line with the price point of a standard fuel car and handle 99.9% of days then this will be a huge financial advantage for most users.
      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Nah. Electric only for the daily commute and Mr. Fusion for the long trips through time...

      • I think the model we'll move to is electric only for the daily commute and rent something for long trips.

        Why not electric only for the routine drives and hybrid (either hydrocarbon or hydrogen) for the exceptional long road trips?

        • by maxume (22995)

          Most of the benefits of a hybrid drive train are during starting and stopping.

          If the ICE is needed to maintain speed (like on a freeway), the hybrid stuff is just extra weight.

          • Actually for me, the sole benefit of hybrid drive is when I pull up to a filling station halfway to Yellowstone and fill up in 4 minutes. Day to day on my 1.7 mile commute it can just come along for the ride.
            • by maxume (22995)

              There's something really strange about smugly bragging about driving 1.7 miles.

              • Not trying to brag, just trying to make my use cases clear. A lot of people I know could commute several days on an electric/hybrid-in-electric-mode, although my case of going a week is extreme. The hybrid exists (for me) so I could drive the same car wherever I want in exceptional cases. I suspect others would have similar use cases.
    • So just because you travel in peaceful territory for so long and just might be happening to travel through a combat zone under enemy fire one day, you bought a Bradley APC as your car, I suppose?
  • So sick of these patents that are nothing more then taking a few existing ideas re-configuring them and calling it whole new idea. Patents should protect revolutions in design, not evolutions.
    • Yep, they already have a system for doing this on airplanes. It supplements the black boxes so that if a plane goes down in the ocean, you can get the data even if you can't find the black box. Airlines are already thinking about using the system to do real-time analysis.

      All the space shots had data like this. What's new about this?
      • Let's see, use nodes to accumulate data for decision support.

        Not a single facet of this is patentable. Not that it should be.

      • by houghi (78078)

        What's new about this?

        They filed a patent application.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Patents should protect revolutions in design, not evolutions.

      OK genius name me a few of these mystical things that aren't revolutions?

    • So sick of these patents that are nothing more then taking a few existing ideas re-configuring them and calling it whole new idea. Patents should protect revolutions in design, not evolutions.

      I agree. This so-called patent sounds more like a mash-up.

  • They are collecting your data generated at your expense (gas/electricity, time, car) and plan to sell it...

    Is good to be an enterprise...

  • Translation!

    We don't want to really solve the engineering problems when dealing with electric vehicles, that costs too much.

    We just want to see how you use it, and see if we can scratch something together so the profit line can provide the CEO with another mansion on the Mediterranean..

    -Hack

    • by djdanlib (732853)

      I need to get in on that.

      I could use another mansion on the Mediterranean. (Seeing as how I have zero mansions on the Mediterranean, currently.)

      • by hackus (159037)

        How about a sugar mama?

        Just ask Bill Clinton.

        I wish I had one of those as I would sit around and design embedded projects all day long, write kernel code and go to school forever.

        Which, is what I would like, but I guess not really what I need. ;-)

        -Hack

    • by geekoid (135745)

      WTH? are you really that stupid?
      Collect data from users in the field in nearly invaluable way to make improvements to ANYTHING.

      • by whovian (107062)

        Collect data from users in the field in nearly invaluable way to make improvements to ANYTHING.

        There's also the "improvement' of adjusting feature lists into pricing tiers. Collecting live data is a pretty good way to get the timely feedback needed to maximize profit sooner.

    • by necro81 (917438)
      Many, many engineering problems cannot be solved without massive amounts of real-life data. GM developed test vehicles, pilot programs, etc., which gave them enough information to shape the production vehicle with an expectation that it would meet customer needs. But customer habits and usage patterns vary wildly, especially considering that this will be a driving experience a bit different than a conventional automobile.

      And, yeah, if you can take a pile of data, determine that such and such component
    • by hackus (159037)

      I would like to point out that the data is not engineering data, just for the MBA types so they can cut costs, not really improve the product or the technology.

      As long as you have MBA types walking around, your going to get products either built with slave labor, or products that just plain suck.

      But you will never get a product that pays living wages and of any quality.

      It is in complete diametric opposition to the education of anyone with an MBA.

      -Hack

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        I hope you are not an engineer, because if you are you should know that a big part of engineering is using resources as efficiently as possible to get the required task done.

        • by hackus (159037)

          Luckily your comment has nothing to do with my response.

          Yes I am an engineer. You don't make comments like above without spending 20 years in engineering working with MBA types.

          -Hack

    • The data mining tells the engineers what type of problems need to be solved.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Friday June 17, 2011 @02:11PM (#36477738)

    So, when it comes to Slashdot entries related to patents, I see three categories:

    1, Patent applications for new interfaces for things like iPhones, where the patent app gives us insight into what a company is working on,
    2, Following the actions and behavior of patent trolls,
    3, Reporting on (and usually condemning) the way that corporations patent everything they possibly can.

    Now, I'm not a fan of the behavior represented in category 3, but you'd think that there'd be a bit more understanding of how it's an inevitably consequence of the behavior in category 2. As for category 1...that's awesome, I dig it. :) But can we get in tune with the reality that organizations *have* to patent the hell out of everything, if only to protect themselves against some dickhead patenting it himself and trying to extort them?

    • by maxume (22995)

      Just stop expecting a coherent 'we'.

      Problem solved, right in the face.

    • Aren't issues two and three part of the same issue - I'll call it #4 - that the patent system is broken? I don't know who they hire, but I remember reading once that Einstein was at one time a patent clerk. Something tells me they aren't getting such smart people these days.
    • by St.Creed (853824)

      They don't have to patent everything. Option 2 can be defended against quite nicely by publishing your ideas in an official magazine or publication, creating prior art with well established credentials and timelines.

      Philips used to have their own publication especially set up for this (may even still have it), were they would just publish interesting ideas that they considered too costly to patent, but too dangerous to allow others to patent it against them. You don't need to patent something to defend, you

  • by istartedi (132515) on Friday June 17, 2011 @02:12PM (#36477744) Journal

    When I was a kid I watched my Dad buy a few cars. You could customize a lot of things. Some of them were technical. You could even customize your rear differential ratio. The salesman would explain that to you if you didn't know.

    I wasn't asked anything like that when I bought my first new car. Then again, it wasn't an American make so perhaps the big 3 dealers still do this?

    Anyway, why not just offer different batteries as an option? If I've worked the same job for the past 5 years and it's a 10 mile commute, and I think I'll be working it for the next 5 years then why should I pay for a 30 mile battery that fits the "average driver"?

    • I wasn't asked anything like that when I bought my first new car.

      Customize your own car? Blasphemy! Due to being a consumer, you are assumed to be an idiot and completely technically incompetent; it's a miracle you can even figure out how to work the automatic transmission. You can't even change your own oil without voiding your warranty these days.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        You are complelty wrong. By law you can work on your own car.

        What car doesn't allow you to change your own oil.

        I'm talking about most cars;, there IS a version of a Ferrari were you're not allowed to make changes, or even keep it for long periods.

        But lets just assume we are not talking about 500,000 dollars spcialty cars.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Funny to hear such talk from someone who said That's the way it [locked down computers] should be, and that's definitely the way it is at my job. Every good sysadmin knows that the biggest idiot in the whole system is the user. [slashdot.org]
         
        Sorry guy. At the car dealership, you are the user in their eyes.

        • Oh look at you, you can rephrase people's words about as well as a political advertisement. However, you miss one pretty critical aspect in your argument.

          Your work computer that sits on the desk that belongs to your employer that sits in the office that your employer pays rent on is probably the property of...your employer, wow how 'bout that? It's his property, and you are merely a user on it for 8 hours a day. Why is he not in his right to protect his property from someone who may not be as technically
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Option lists, including final drive ratio, still exist with many options to choose from.

      You won't be asked about options much. Remember, ordering options requires waiting instead of getting a vehicle off the lot. The dealer needs to clear his inventory. If you want custom, do the research.

      Custom battery options are unlikely due to tooling cost.

      • Option lists, including final drive ratio, still exist with many options to choose from. Custom battery options are unlikely due to tooling cost.

        Yes, options exist, but it's nothing like it was in the before-time, back in the day you could order all kinds of crazy drive-train options (exhaust/carburetor(s)/intake/engine/transmission/suspension).

        Now it's pretty much would you like the 4 cylinder package or the 6 cylinder package? Would you like to supersize that with alloy wheels? How about a cheesy Edd

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      If I've worked the same job for the past 5 years and it's a 10 mile commute, and I think I'll be working it for the next 5 years then why should I pay for a 30 mile battery that fits the "average driver"?

      Around here you'd do it because that '10-mile battery' probably wouldn't get you ten miles when it's 40C with the air conditioning on, or -40C with the heater on. Or at night in the rain when the lights and wipers are running and you're stuck in traffic due to an accident blocking the road.

      Simple fact is there's no such thing as a '10 mile battery' or a '30 mile battery' and the range can be halved or worse in bad circumstances.

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Customizing requires a build-to-order model, as opposed to a build-to-plan model. The difference between those makes a very large difference on how you can run your business. If you have a build-to-plan model you can run your factories at a more or less consistent pace. If you find you have created too much inventory you can offer buying incentives to reduce your inventory (while supplies last!), or you can halt or slow production for a fixed period of time. If you have a build-to-order model you must w

  • The application is directed to uploading driving habit data from a plurality of vehicles to a remote server via a telematics system...

    Sounds an awful lot like a unit of a commodity storing information locally about its use and then uploading to a central system. I would love to see Lodsys sue GM for patent infringement. Please please please.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday June 17, 2011 @02:22PM (#36477902) Homepage

    The Chevy Volt inherently has a complex use cycle. It can be plugged in for slow charge, fast charged, or fueled. Heating and air conditioning use matters a lot. So do hills. Info about the use cycle is needed to figure out the tradeoffs. Would adding 50% more battery capacity be a win or a lose? What about if battery prices dropped 20%?

    The Volt's software notices if the gasoline engine isn't needed for 6 weeks or so, and prompts the driver to run the engine briefly, so it gets warmed up and rotated. If there's almost no fuel use in a year, it prompts you to run the engine and add some fresh gasoline (there's a shelf life problem). How many drivers hit those limits? Nobody knows yet.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Modern gasoline stores badly.

      Additives like STA-BIL (my preference) are advisable for stored or "intermittent use" engines. I ignore the STA-BIL directions usually pour a full bottle into my tank. Less for small engines, motorcycles, etc.

      It works. I left a Bronco II sit for nearly four years in my yard, yet it fired up fine with only a bit of priming.

    • Useful, but I wonder if drivers have the option of opting out of being tracked. GM should offer an opt-out, but also offer an incentive for drivers to opt-in. That way, you raise awareness and transparency to what they are doing plus most people would probably opt-in for a reasonable incentive (like first scheduled maintenance is free or something like that...)
  • Is obviousness (to anyone "skilled in the art") not a consideration in the granting of patents anymore? It certainly seems that way sometimes...

    • That's just what I was thinking. This idea is obvious to me, but I'm "skilled in the art" of coming up with ideas that connect disparate things. Heck, most patents are obvious. The things worth patenting are novel, revolutionary ideas like Tesla's 3-phase power system.
    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Did you actually read the patent? If not, write down what the 'obvious' answer is to this problem "A method and system for determining comparative performance of an alternative fuel vehicle, such as an electric or hybrid vehicle, based on actual use of an existing gasoline or diesel fuel vehicle." Then read the patent, and compare each and every claim and method with your list, and see if they are EXACTLY the same.

      Obvious does not mean that having read the patent it is obvious that it will work. Obvious

      • Won't comment on this particular application, but no: "obvious" does not mean that anyone skilled in the art would come up with exactly the same list of claims. If that were the case, the no patent would be enforceable, because all you'd have to do is introduce some trivial variance to an existing patent and it could still be deemed novel.

    • Repeat after me: This is not a patent. This is not a patent. This is not a patent.

      This is a patent application. It hasn't been examined yet. It doesn't grant any exclusive rights to the applicant. The claimed invention may very well be obvious - time will tell what the examiner is able to dig up.

  • by spectro (80839) on Friday June 17, 2011 @02:38PM (#36478116) Homepage

    I used to watch Formula One races in the 80s and they had in-car computers sending wireless telemetry to the pits.

    As for alternative fuel, I believe in these times most racing cars were using Jet fuel, ethanol or other crap like that.

    • by tweak13 (1171627)

      As for alternative fuel, I believe in these times most racing cars were using Jet fuel, ethanol or other crap like that.

      Unless the cars were using diesel engines, I'm pretty sure jet fuel wasn't involved. I'm fairly sure F1 has generally used some form of high octane gasoline for racing fuel. Alcohol was more popular with other racing series. Methanol was a much more popular alcohol choice back then, replaced almost entirely by ethanol in recent years.

    • by travbrad (622986)
      http://www.f1technical.net/articles/19 [f1technical.net] In case you want to really nerd out on F1, like me. :)
  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday June 17, 2011 @02:40PM (#36478134) Homepage
    Great. Another overly broad patent to stifle innovation. Now anyone with an electric or alternative fuel vehicle who wants to transmit performance metrics (or even so much as graph them, see claim 6), will have to pay a license. In 2011 it should be obvious to anyone skilled in the art, any art whatsoever, that it is a good idea to transmit data from any device across a data network, any network, to a data processing device of any kind in order to glean useful information. Maybe in 1950 it was a novel idea, but not today.
  • STOP GIVING OUT OBVIOUS PATENTS

    seriously. The level of intellect required for some of the patents they give out to be nonobvious just makes the American government look dumber and dumber.

    Using data to improve a product... well it's never been done before with tracking services for an automobile. how novel!

    • by Macrat (638047)

      I own a patent on anti-patent comment postings.

      You'll be hearing from my lawyer.

  • Tesla also keeps a log of driving behavior for the same reasons don't they? So, prior-art?

    http://www.mybitbox.com/articles/tesla-roadster-log-parsing/ [mybitbox.com]

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      Except for the whole thing about being under the control of the owner, collecting data on existing (non-electric) vehicles, performing a simulation of those driving habits in an alternative fuel vehicle, and presenting the resulting potential savings to the user, and also sending to the manufacturer, yeah it is exactly the same thing.

  • Looks like GM filed for this patent 12/2009. Anyone have any ideas how long Nissan has been doing this and/or planning on doing this?

  • My driving "performance" is a copyrighted work. 'Nuff said.
    • My driving "performance" is a copyrighted work. 'Nuff said.

      I believe your driving performance is raw data, which is not copyrightable.

      • by fotbr (855184)

        That depends. If it's a "performance", then it can be copyrighted. The telemetry from that driving "performance", however, is just data (facts) and is not.

        • So the raw audio telemetry collected from a singing performance is "raw data," is certainly factual, and cannot be copyrighted? I believe the entire recording industry would disagree with you.

          As for my driving being a "performance," my passengers certainly think so. They often shout adulations such as "My god, you're going to get us all killed!"
  • I should patent my custom implementation of Google Analytics

  • I refer you to my post of yesterday: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2244776&cid=36465806 [slashdot.org]

    s/CmdrTaco/Soulskill/g

  • Thank you,

    David [exercisest...etummy.com]

  • ...must be patentable!

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