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Title:
ROUTE SUGGESTING AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/172915
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Techniques and examples pertaining to suggesting an alternative route for an autonomous vehicle are described. A method for suggesting the alternative route may involve receiving, by a processor, information relevant to a via point in a vicinity of a predetermined route of a vehicle. The method may also involve performing, by the processor, a calculation for an alternative route comprising the via point based on the information and an itinerary of a next trip of the vehicle. The method may also involve presenting, by the processor, the alternative route to a passenger in the vehicle in an event that the calculation is positive. The method may further involve transmitting, by the processor via a wireless transmitter, commands to the autonomous vehicle to maneuver the autonomous vehicle to travel along the alternative route in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route.

Inventors:
VENKITESWARAN, Prasad (330 Town Center Drive, Suite 800Dearborn, MI, 48126, US)
COLLINS, Patrick (330 Town Center Drive, Suite 800Dearborn, MI, 48126, US)
Application Number:
US2018/021610
Publication Date:
September 12, 2019
Filing Date:
March 08, 2018
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
FORD GLOBAL TECHNOLOGIES, LLC (330 Town Center Drive, Suite 800Dearborn, MI, 48126, US)
International Classes:
G05D1/00
Foreign References:
US20170192437A12017-07-06
US20170185948A12017-06-29
US20120323485A12012-12-20
US20170083933A12017-03-23
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STEVENS, David, R. (Stevens Law Group, 1745 Technology Drive Suite 22, San Jose CA, 95110, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A method, comprising:

receiving, by a processor, information relevant to a via point in a vicinity of a predetermined route of a vehicle;

performing, by the processor, a calculation for an alternative route comprising the via point based on the information and an itinerary of a next trip of the vehicle; and

presenting, by the processor, the alternative route to a passenger in the vehicle in an event that the calculation is positive.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the vehicle comprises an autonomous vehicle, and wherein the processor is located in the vehicle, the method further comprising:

maneuvering, by the processor, the autonomous vehicle to travel along the alternative route in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the vehicle comprises an autonomous vehicle, and wherein the processor is located remotely from the vehicle, the method further comprising:

transmitting, by the processor via a wireless transmitter, commands to the autonomous vehicle to maneuver the autonomous vehicle to travel along the alternative route in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the information relevant to the via point comprises: a distance between the vehicle and the via point or a map coordinate of the via point; and an average wait time at the via point.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the receiving of the information comprises receiving the information from an infrastructure within a vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication range from the vehicle.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the performing of the calculation comprises: calculating a first profit associated with traveling along the predetermined route;

calculating a second profit associated with traveling along the alternative route; and designating the calculation as positive in an event that the second profit is greater than the first profit.

7. The method of claim 6, wherein:

the itinerary of the next trip of the vehicle comprises an origin of the next trip for a next passenger,

the calculating of the first profit comprises calculating the first profit based on lengths of segments of the predetermined route, a per-mile revenue of the vehicle, a per-mile driving cost of the vehicle, and a distance between the origin of the next trip for the next passenger and a destination of the predetermined route for the passenger, and

the calculating of the second profit comprises calculating the second profit based on lengths of segments of the alternative route, a per-mile revenue of the vehicle, a per-mile driving cost of the vehicle, and a distance between the origin of the next trip for the next passenger and a destination of the alternative route for the passenger. 8 The method of claim 7, wherein:

the calculating of the first profit comprises calculating the first profit further based on a destination charge associated with traveling along the predetermined route, or

the calculating of the second profit comprises calculating the second profit further based on a destination charge associated with traveling along the alternative route, a wait charge for an average wait time at the via point, or both.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein the presenting of the alternative route to the passenger comprises displaying a map of the alternative route and an estimated transportation fee associated with the alternative route on a display accessible to the passenger.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising:

assigning, by the processor, the next trip to another vehicle.

11. A system, comprising:

a wireless receiver implementable to a vehicle and capable of receiving via point information from an infrastructure when the vehicle is traveling along a predetermined route and within a vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication range from the infrastructure, the via point information relevant to a via point located in a vicinity along the predetermined route;

a memory capable of storing a map, a plurality of profit parameters and an itinerary of a next trip of the vehicle; and a processor communicatively coupled to the wireless receiver and the memory, and capable of determining an alternative route for the vehicle based on the via point information and the map, the alternative route comprising the via point,

wherein the processor is further capable of estimating a profit margin associated with traveling along the alternative route as compared to traveling along the predetermined route based on the profit parameters and the itinerary of the next trip of the vehicle, and

wherein the processor is further capable of presenting the alternative route via a human- machine interface (HMI) to a passenger in the vehicle in an event that the profit margin is positive.

12. The system of claim 11, wherein:

the vehicle comprises an autonomous vehicle,

both the processor and the memory are located in the autonomous vehicle, and the processor is further capable of maneuvering the autonomous vehicle to travel along the alternative route in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route.

13. The system of claim 11, wherein:

the vehicle comprises an autonomous vehicle,

the processor and the memory comprise a computing server located remotely from the autonomous vehicle, and

the processor is further capable of wirelessly transmitting commands to the autonomous vehicle to maneuver the autonomous vehicle to travel along the alternative route in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route.

14. The system of claim 11, wherein the information relevant to the via point comprises:

a distance between the vehicle and the via point or a map coordinate of the via point; and an average wait time at the via point.

15. The system of claim 11, The system of claim 11, wherein the system further comprises the HMI.

16. The system of claim 11, wherein the profit margin comprises an estimated profit associated with traveling along the alternative route less an estimated profit associated with traveling along the predetermined route.

17. The system of claim 16, wherein:

the profit parameters comprise a per-mile revenue of the vehicle and a per-mile driving cost of the vehicle,

the itinerary of the next trip of the vehicle comprises an origin of the next trip for a next passenger,

the processor is capable of calculating the estimated profit associated with traveling along the predetermined route based on lengths of segments of the predetermined route, the per-mile revenue of the vehicle, the per-mile driving cost of the vehicle, and a distance between the origin of the next trip for the next passenger and a destination of the predetermined route for the passenger, and the processor is capable of calculating the estimated profit associated with traveling along the alternative route based on lengths of segments of the alternative route, the per-mile revenue of the vehicle, the per-mile driving cost of the vehicle, and a distance between the origin of the next trip for the next passenger and a destination of the alternative route for the passenger.

18. The system of claim 17, wherein:

the processor is capable of calculating the estimated profit associated with traveling along the predetermined route further based on a destination charge of the predetermined route, or the processor is capable of calculating the estimated profit associated with traveling along the alternative route further based on a destination charge of the alternative route, a wait charge for an average wait time at the via point, or both.

19. The system of claim 11, wherein the HMI comprises a visual display capable of displaying a map of the alternative route and an estimated transportation fee associated with the alternative route.

20. The system of claim 19, wherein the visual display is further capable of receiving a response from the passenger, the response indicating an approval or a disapproval of the alternative route by the passenger.

Description:
ROUTE SUGGESTING AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] The present disclosure generally relates to automotive vehicles and, more particularly, to methods of dynamically suggesting alternative routes to a passenger and vehicles using the same.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) being developed today typically contain a suite of sensors to perform their critical functions, such as high-power cameras, Light Detection and Ranging devices (LIDARs), ultrasonic sensors, and the like. An AV is usually equipped with a high-performance computing device, such as a Virtual Driver System (VDS), which performs a computationally-intensive task of integrating or“fusing” all the sensor data (i.e., data collected by the suite of sensors) to create an image of the environment around the vehicle that enables motion control. The VDS may draw a large amount of power, which is leading AV manufacturers to deploy AVs on platforms of a full hybrid electric vehicle (FHEV) and a battery electric vehicle (BEV). In addition to the power-consuming sensors and the VDS, AVs are designed with redundant motion control systems such as steering and brakes to ensure adequate failure-safe functionalities in an event of equipment and/or power net failures. The redundant motion control systems further aggravate the power consumption of the AVs.

[0003] The higher power consumption of AVs due to the additional sensors, computing systems, electrified platform and redundant motion gives rise to at least the following disadvantageous business scenarios: (1) AVs are prohibitively more expensive than conventional automotive vehicles, and thus limited to a business model of an enterprise/commercial fleet ownership; and (2) limiting AVs to the enterprise ownership model delays realization of potential benefits to the society. As cited in multiple studies, it is predicted that not until the time frame of years 2040 ~ 2060 would a more complete democratization of AVs be realized (e.g., more personal ownership of AVs in addition to the enterprise ownership), which will bring the society benefits such as improved personal mobility and reduced traffic congestion. The time frame may be pulled in if the purchasing cost (i.e., price) of an AV can be reduced.

[0004] One way of reducing price of an AV is through economy of scale. If an enterprise (e g., a taxi fleet) can find a way to increase its revenue per mile serviced and/or reduce its cost per mile serviced, the return on investment (ROI) period (i.e., time needed for the taxi fleet to break even) may be shortened, and the enterprise may be able to afford higher-volume purchases of AVs, which will eventually drive the AV price lower and thus support a more complete democratization of AVs, possibly through a more popular personal ownership of AVs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0005] Non-limiting and non-exhaustive embodiments of the present disclosure are described with reference to the following figures, wherein like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout the various figures unless otherwise specified.

[0006] FIG. 1 is a diagram depicting an example scenario in which embodiments in accordance with the present disclosure may be utilized.

[0007] FIG. 2 is a diagram illustrating parameters used for profit calculation in accordance with the present disclosure.

[0008] FIG. 3 is a diagram illustrating an embodiment of passing via point information in accordance with the present disclosure. [0009] FIG. 4 is a flowchart depicting an example process in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

[0010] FIG. 5 is a block diagram depicting an example apparatus in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0011] In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part thereof, and in which is shown by way of illustrating specific exemplary embodiments in which the disclosure may be practiced. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the concepts disclosed herein, and it is to be understood that modifications to the various disclosed embodiments may be made, and other embodiments may be utilized, without departing from the scope of the present disclosure. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense.

[0012] As described above, increasing revenue per mile serviced and/or reducing cost per mile serviced for a taxi fleet may help shortening the ROI period and encourage volume purchases that would eventually drive down price of an AV. In the present disclosure, methods, apparatuses and systems are proposed relating to dynamically proposing alternative itineraries to a passenger of an AV (e.g., an autonomously-driving taxi) as the AV is traveling along a planned or predetermined route leading to a destination. The proposed alternative itineraries are dynamically determined (i.e., constantly or periodically updated as the AV is moving along the predetermined route) to increase the revenue per mile serviced, to reduce cost per mile serviced, or both. Each of the alternative itineraries has an alternative route that is different from the predetermined route, and, in some cases, may have a different destination than the destination to which the predetermined route is leading. The alternative itineraries are determined based on factors including an immediate location (e.g., a present location) of the AV, information of nearly via points, as well as the itinerary of a next possible trip of the AV. The alternative itineraries or routes are determined by a processor (e.g., a computer or a computing server) and, if a certain criterion is met, proposed to the passenger. Upon receiving an approval of one of the alternative itineraries by the passenger, the AV may change to travel along the alternative route of the approved alternative itinerary. In some embodiments, the processor may continue to determine and propose more alternative routes even after the passenger has approved one.

[0013] Rather than aiming at achieving a higher per-mile profit for the AV, in some embodiments, the processor may determine alternative routes with an aim to achieve a higher energy utilization efficiency of the AV, thereby improving performance of the AV. For example, for a fuel burning vehicle, the processor may determine alternative routes that require less fuel consumption, thereby improving the gas mileage of the AV. For an electric vehicle, the processor may determine alternative routes that consume less electricity, thereby increasing the total service distance of the AV before a battery charge is needed.

[0014] Various embodiments described in the present disclosure may be applied to an example scenario 100 depicted in FIG. 1. Scenario 100 may include a passenger 14 riding in an AV 10 that is traveling along a predetermined route, namely, route 00 - A - B - C - 01 - 03 - 04 as shown in FIG. 1 as planned by a fleet dispatch center that may be located at location R of FIG. 1. Specifically, AV 10 may pick up passenger 14 at origin 00, drive past intermediate points A, B and C in sequence, and arrive at destination 01, where passenger 14 gets off AV 10. Subsequently, AV 10 may resume the predetermined route to start a next service trip. That is, AV 10 may proceed from destination 01, without a passenger, to location 03 (which is an origin of the next service trip) to pick up a next passenger and drive the next passenger to location 04 (which is a destination of the next service trip), where the next passenger gets of AY 10.

[0015] Scenario 100 may also include an infrastructure along the predetermined route, such as an overpass, a traffic light, a road sign or a billboard (e.g., billboard 40 of FIG. 1). Located near location A along the predetermined route, billboard 40 may broadcast toward vehicles driving by, using a wireless technology or protocol, via point (VP) information which is pertinent to one or more VPs located in a vicinity of the predetermined route. For example, a VP 02 (e.g., a coffee shop) may be located in a vicinity of the predetermined route, close to location B, and billboard 40 may transmit information relevant to VP 02 to AV 10 when AV 10 is within a vehicle-to- infrastructure (V2I) communication range 44 from billboard 40. That is, as AV 10 travels along the predetermined route and enters a V2I communication range 44 of billboard 40, AV 10 may receive VP information regarding VP 02 from billboard 40. The VP information may include information relevant to VP 02, such as how far down the road VP 02 is from billboard 40 (i.e., a distance between billboard 40 and VP 02), a map coordinate of VP 02, operation hours of VP 02, and the like. In some embodiments, the VP information may also include an average wait time at VP 02, namely, an average duration of time passengers spend at VP 02 (e.g., an average time people stay at the coffee shop for), which is an indication how much time AV 10 may need to wait at VP 02 if passenger 14 decides to stop by VP 02 to, for instance, grab a cup of coffee before heading toward destination 01.

[0016] Scenario 100 may also include a processor to process at least a portion of the VP information received by AV 10 from billboard 40. In some embodiments, the processor may be implemented to or otherwise located in AV 10. In some embodiments, the processor may be located remotely from AV 10, (e.g., computing server 80 located at the fleet dispatch center at location R of FIG. 1), and AV 10 may relay the VP information of VP 02, or at least a portion thereof, to the processor via wireless communication. For example, AV 10 may wirelessly transmit the distance from billboard 40 to coffee shop 02 as well as the average wait time at coffee shop 02 to computing server 80 for further processing.

[0017] In addition to the VP information, the processor may have access to another piece of information: the predetermined route of AV 10, which may include an itinerary of the next service trip of AV 10 after serving the current passenger (i.e., passenger 14). That is, regardless whether the processor is located in AV 10 or remotely from AV 10, the processor may have access to upcoming trip information of AV 10 regarding that AV 10 is scheduled to pick up the next passenger at location 03 of FIG. 1 and drive the next passenger from location 03 (i.e., the origin of the next service trip) to location 04 (i.e., the destination of the next service trip). The itinerary of the present service trip and the next service trip, both part of the predetermined route, may be stored in a memory that is accessible by the processor. In some embodiments, the processor may have access to information pertinent to not only the present and the next service trip of AV 10, but also all present and future scheduled service trips of all other taxi vehicles of the taxi fleet. The itineraries of all the present and future scheduled service trips may also be stored in the memory that is accessible by the processor.

[0018] The memory may also store a map of an area that AV 10 services, such as various locations of FIG. 1, as well as roads connecting the various locations. Specifically, the map may record a coordinate (referred as“map coordinate”) of each of the locations, as well as the coordinates of the roads connecting the locations.

[0019] Based on the VP information of VP 02, the map, and the itinerary of the next trip (i.e., the next service trip), the processor may determine one or more alternative routes that include VP 02. Each of the alternative routes may somewhat deviate from the original route (i.e., the predetermined route) to include a stop at VP 02 for passenger 14. For example, one of the alternative routes may go along locations 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1, which includes a stop at VP 02 before arriving at destination 01 for passenger 14. Another alternative route may have the destination for passenger 14 changed from location 01 to VP 02, going along locations 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04, which allows AV 10 to proceed directly from VP 02 to location 03 for picking up the next passenger while passenger 14 may enjoy a full meal at coffee shop 02. The processor may further assign another vehicle in the taxi fleet to pick up passenger 14 at VP 02 after the meal and drive passenger 14 to his or her original destination at location 01. It is worth noting that, in an event that an alternative route may affect the scheduled timing for AV 10 to pick up the next passenger at location 03, the processor may further assign the next service trip to another vehicle in the taxi fleet so that the next passenger may still be picked up as scheduled at location 03, just not by AV 10.

[0020] After determining the alternative routes, the processor may subsequently perform a calculation for each of the alternative routes and determine if the calculation is positive or not. The processor may designate the calculation positive if the processor determines that AV 10’ s traveling along the alternative route would result in an increase in the overall profit or a reduction in the overall fuel/electricity consumption of AV 10. Calculation examples given below are illustrated with maximizing profit as the goal, but the same calculation principle may be applied to achieve a more efficient fuel/electricity utilization of AV 10 instead, thereby improving the performance of AV 10.

[0021] To determine whether an alternative route may increase the overall profit as compared to the predetermined route, the processor may perform a calculation (i.e., a profit calculation) as described below. Specifically, the processor may calculate an estimated profit that may be made by AV 10 traveling along the alternative route. That estimated profit may then be compared with an estimated profit that is expected to be made by AV 10 traveling along the predetermined route. A profit margin, i.e., the estimated profit of AV 10 traveling along the alternative route minus the estimated profit of AV 10 traveling along the predetermined route, may then be calculated by the processor. A positive profit margin would indicate that traveling along the alternative route would increase the overall profit of AV 10. When the calculation for the alternative route results in a positive profit margin, the calculation is designated positive by the processor.

[0022] The processor may calculate the profit margin using a set of profit parameters of AV 10 in combination with the VP information of VP 02, the predetermined route, the alternative route, and the itinerary of the next trip. As shown in FIG. 2, the profit parameters may include a per-mile revenue made by AV 10 traveling each mile (referred as“revenue. per. mile”), a per-mile driving cost of AV 10 traveling each mile (referred as“cost. per. mile”), and a per-minute wait charge as AV 10 is idle at a VP waiting for a passenger (referred as“ wait. charge.per. minute”). In some embodiments, the profit parameters may also include a destination charge that AV 10 may collect when a passenger arrives at a destination. The destination charge may vary depending on the location of the destination. For example, a destination charge at location 01 (referred as “ destination.charge.01”) may be different from that at location 04 (referred as “destination charge.0-1”) and that at VP 02 (referred as“destination charge.02”). The set of profit parameters may also be stored in the memory that is accessible by the processor.

[0023] The profit margin calculation may also involve distances between the various locations, as well as distances from an immediate position of AV 10 to various locations of FIG. 1 (including the distance from the immediate position of AV 10 to VP 02). Distances between various locations may include lengths of segments of the predetermined route, as well as lengths of segments of the alternative route. Some distances between various locations may be readily obtained by the processor using the map stored in the memory that the processor has access to. For example, as shown in FIG. 2, the distance between VP 02 and destination 01 (referred as “ dis.to.dest.from.via”), the distance between VP 02 and location 03 (referred as “ dis.to.next.from.via”), the distance between location 01 and location 03 (referred as “ dis.to.next.from.des”) and the distance between location 03 and location 04 (referred as “ dis.to.next.finaF ) can all be obtained by the processor using the map.

[0024] On the other hand, distances from AV 10 to various locations may require knowledge of the immediate position of AV 10. In some embodiments, the distance between VP 02 and the immediate position of AV 10 may be approximated by the distance between billboard 40 and VP 02 as included in the VP information transmitted by billboard 40. In some embodiments, the immediate position of AV 10 may be accurately detected by a global positioning system (GPS) equipped in AV 10 and made known to the processor (either via an in-vehicle connection between the GPS and the processor if the processor is located in AV 10, or via a wireless link between AV 10 and the processor if the processor is located remotely from AV 10). The distances from the immediate position of AV 10 to various locations may then be determined by the processor based on the immediate position of AV 10, the map of the service area of AV 10, as well as the map coordinate of VP 02 as included in the VP information transmitted by billboard 40. As shown in FIG. 2, the distance between AV 10 and VP 02 is referred as“dis.to.via”, the distance between AV 10 and origin 00 is referred as“ dis.fr om. origin” , the distance between AV 10 and destination

01 is referred as“dis.to.desf . [0025] For the alternative route along locations 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1, the processor may perform the profit calculation as follows:

[0026] Firstly, the processor may calculate the estimated profit associated with AV 10 traveling along the predetermined route, (i.e., 00 - A - B - C - 01 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1) using the following equation (eq. 1):

estimated profit I =

[(dis. from origin + dis.to.desf) * profit. per. mile\

+ destination.charge.01

\dis.to.next.from.des * cost.per.mile]

+ [ dis.to.next.flnal * profit. per. mile

+ destination.charge.04

[0027] The term profit. per. mile represents the profit made by AV 10 per mile serviced and is equal to (revenue. per. mile - cost.per.mile). According to eq. 1, the estimated profit associated with AV 10 traveling along the predetermined route is calculated as the mileage profit made from transporting passenger 14 from origin 00 to destination 01 via locations A, B and C in sequence, plus any destination fee collected at destination 01 when passenger 14 gets off AV 10 at destination 01, minus the operating cost of AV 10 traveling from destination 01 to origin 03 without a passenger, plus the mileage profit made from transporting the next passenger from origin 03 to destination 04, and plus any destination fee collected at destination 04 when the next passenger gets off AV 10 at destination 04.

[0028] Secondly, the processor may calculate the estimated profit associated with AV 10 traveling along the alternative route, (i.e., 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1) using the following equation (eq. 2): estimated profit 2

[(dis from. origin + dis.to.via + dis.to.dest.from.via ) * profiteer. mile\

+ [average. wait time * wait charge. per. minute]

+ destination.charge.01

\dis.to.next.from.des * cost. per. mile\

+ [ dis.to.next.fmal * profit. per. mile\

+ destination.charge.04

[0029] The term average wait time represents the average wait time at VP 02, and therefore [aver age. wait time * wait.charge.per .minute represents an estimation of a wait charge for AV 10 waiting for passenger 14 for the average wait time at VP 02. According to eq. 2, the estimated profit associated with AV 10 traveling along the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 is calculated as the mileage profit made from transporting passenger 14 from origin 00 to VP 02 via locations A and B in sequence, plus the fee charged for waiting for passenger 14 at VP 02, plus the mileage profit made from transporting passenger 14 from VP 02 to destination 01, plus any destination fee collected at destination 01 when passenger 14 gets off AV 10 at destination 01, minus the operating cost of AV 10 traveling from destination 01 to origin 03 without a passenger, plus the mileage profit made from transporting the next passenger from origin 03 to destination 04, and plus any destination fee collected at destination 04 when the next passenger gets off AV 10 at destination 04.

[0030] Thirdly, the processor may calculate the profit margin of the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 using the following equation (eq. 3):

Profit Margin = estimated _profit 2 - estimated _profit 1 [0031] If Profit Margin as calculated in eq. 3 has a positive value (i.e., greater than 0), the processor would designate the profit calculation as positive. Namely, if estimated _profit 2 as calculated in eq. 2 is greater than estimated _profit_l as calculated in eq. 1, the processor would designate the profit calculation for the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 as positive.

[0032] As another example, for the alternative route along locations 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1, the processor may perform the profit calculation as follows:

[0033] Firstly, the processor may calculate the estimated profit associated with AV 10 traveling along the predetermined route using eq. 1 described above.

[0034] Secondly, the processor may calculate the estimated profit associated with AV 10 traveling along the alternative route, (i.e., 00 A B 02 03 04 of FIG. 1) using the following equation (eq. 4):

estimated _profit_3 =

[(dis.from. origin + dis.to.via ) * profiteer. mile]

+ destination.charge.02

\dis.to.next.from.via * cost.per mile\

+ \dis.to.next.final * profit.per.mile\

+ destination.charge.04

[0035] According to eq. 3, the estimated profit associated with AV 10 traveling along the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04 is calculated as the mileage profit made from transporting passenger 14 from origin 00 to VP 02 via locations A and B in sequence, plus any destination fee collected at destination 02 when passenger 14 gets off AV 10 at destination 02, minus the operating cost of AV 10 traveling from VP 02 to origin 03 without a passenger, plus the mileage profit made from transporting the next passenger from origin 03 to destination 04, and plus any destination fee collected at destination 04 when the next passenger gets off AV 10 at destination 04.

[0036] Thirdly, the processor may calculate the profit margin of the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04 using the following equation (eq. 5):

Profit Margin = estimated _profit 3 - estimated _profit 1

[0037] Similarly, if Profit Margin as calculated in eq. 5 has a positive value (i.e., greater than 0), the processor would designate the profit calculation as positive. Namely, if estimated _profit 3 as calculated in eq. 4 is greater than estimated _profit 1 as calculated in eq 1, the processor would designate the profit calculation for the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 03

- 04 as positive.

[0038] In an event that the processor has designated a profit calculation for an alternative route as positive (i.e., the profit margin associated with AV 10 traveling along the alternative route is positive or greater than 0), the processor may subsequently present the alternative route (or at least a portion of the alternative route that concerns the passenger) to the passenger and ask for approval of the alternative route (or the portion of the alternative route that concerns the passenger) so that AV 10 may change route and travel along the alternative route instead in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route. For example, the processor may calculate the profit margin of the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04 according to eq. 5 described above and result in a positive value, and the processor may subsequently present the alternative route 00 - A

- B - 02 - 03 - 04 (or the portion of the alternative route that concerns passenger 14, i.e., 00 - A -B - 02) to passenger 14 by displaying a map of the alternative route on a visual display or through another human-machine interface (HMI) that is accessible to passenger 14. In some embodiments, the visual display or the F1MI may be fixedly installed in AV 10. In some embodiments, the visual display may be a cell phone or other personal device that is carried by passenger 14. In some embodiments, the processor may also display, in addition to the map of the alternative route, an estimated transportation fee associated with the alternative route, which may assist the passenger in deciding whether to approve the alternative route. In some embodiments, the HMI or the visual display (e.g., a touch screen) may be capable of receiving a response from the passenger, and the response may indicate an approval or a disapproval of the alternative route by the passenger.

[0039] In an event that there are two or more alternative routes for which the respective profit margin calculations (e g., eq. 3 and eq. 5) are designated positive, the processor may subsequently determine, based on a presentation algorithm, to present one or more of the two or more alternative routes to the passenger. In some embodiments, the presentation algorithm may choose the most profitable alternative route to present to the passenger. In some embodiments, the presentation algorithm may prioritize the two or more alternative routes according to the calculated values of the positive profit margin in a descending order, and the processor may present the two or more alternative routes to the passenger according to the descending order until one of the two or more alternative routes is approved by the passenger. For example, the profit margin as calculated in eq. 3 above may have a greater value (i.e., a more positive value) than the profit margin as calculated in eq. 5 above. In some embodiments, the processor may only present to passenger 14 the alternative route associated with eq. 3 (i.e., 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04, where AY 10 waits for passenger 14 at VP 02 before heading toward destination 01) without presenting to passenger 14 the alternative route associated with eq. 5 (i.e., 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04, where AV 10 ends the service for passenger 14 at VP 02). In some alternative embodiments, the processor may firstly present to passenger 14 the alternative route associated with eq. 3 (i.e., AV 10 waits for passenger 14 at VP 02 before heading toward destination 01), and if passenger 14 does not approve the alternative route associated with eq. 3, the processor may secondly present to passenger 14 the alternative route associated with eq. 5 (i.e., AV 10 ends the service for passenger 14 at VP 02).

[0040] As described above, depending on specific embodiments of the present disclosure, the processor may be located in AV 10, or may be located remotely from AV 10. For embodiments in which the processor is located remotely from AV 10 (e.g., the processor is computing server 80 located in the fleet dispatch center as shown in FIG. 1), the alternative route as well as the estimated transportation fee, as determined by the processor, may need to be wirelessly transmitted from the processor to AV 10. Similarly, the response of either approval of disapproval of the alternative route by the passenger may need to be wirelessly transmitted from AV 10 to the processor.

[0041] In an event that passenger 14 approves an alternative route presented to him or her by the processor, the processor may further maneuver AV 10, either directly or indirectly, to travel along the approved alternative route. For embodiments in which the processor is located in AV 10, the processor may directly maneuver AV 10 to travel along the approved alternative route. For embodiments in which the processor is located remotely from AV 10, the processor may transmit, via a wireless transmitter coupled, driving commands to AV 10 which enable AV 10 to maneuver AV 10 itself to travel along the approved alternative route.

[0042] In addition to the VP information relevant to VP 02, AV 10 may be able to receive from billboard 40 VP information relevant to other via points (which may include a park, a library, a post office or a grocery store) that are located in a vicinity of the predetermined route. As illustrated in in scenario 300 of FIG. 3, once AV 10 is within V2I communication range 44 from billboard 40, AV 10 may be able to receive VP information relevant to one or more of VP 31, VP 32, VP 33 and VP 34 that are located near location B of the predetermined route, as well as one or more of VP 35, VP 36 and VP 37 that are located near location C of the predetermined route.

[0043] In some embodiments, there may be infrastructures other than billboard 40 that are able to transmit VP information to AV 10. As illustrated in FIG. 3, in addition to billboard 40, there may be another billboard 50, located near location C along the predetermined route, that may be able to transmit VP information to AV 10 once AV 10 is within a V2I communication range 55 of billboard 50.

[0044] In some embodiments, VP information of each of the VPs of FIG 3 may be stored in a VP data server 60, and VP data server 60 may be communicatively coupled to billboards 40 and 50 to provide billboards 40 and 50 with the VP information to be wirelessly transmitted to vehicles passing by including AV 10.

[0045] In some embodiments, VP information may be broadcasted from an infrastructure toward vehicles passing by without a need of the infrastructure receiving a request from a vehicle within the V2I communication range for VP information. For example, AV 10 may automatically receive VP information of one or more VPs of FIG. 3 as soon as AV 10 enters V2I communication range 44 or 55. Broadcasting VP information may an advantage of reducing latency for AV 10 to receive the VP information, but a higher power consumption may be resulted as billboards 40 and 50 are constantly broadcasting VP information. In some embodiments, however, VP information may not be broadcasted, but instead would be transmitted from an infrastructure to a vehicle within the V2I communication range only when a request from the vehicle is received by the infrastructure For example, as AV 10 enters V2I communication range 44 or 55 from billboard 40 or 50, AV 10 may need to place a request to billboard 40 or 50 using the V2I communication protocol. Upon receiving the request, billboard 40 or 50 may then start to transmit VP information to AV 10. This approach may have a disadvantage of a higher latency in AV 10’s receiving the VP information, but billboards 40 and 50 may be able to operate at a lower level of power consumption.

[0046] In some embodiments, a VP may be able to update the relevant VP information stored in VP data server 60 as needed. For example, VP 33 may be a post office, and may be able to dynamically update its VP information stored in VP data server 60 in a real-time manner (e g., dynamically update the average wait time at post office 33 depending on how many people are waiting to be served in post office 33. As another example, the VPs of scenario 300 of FIG. 3 may be able to register their operation hours, or dynamically update whether they are open or close at the moment, with VP data server 60 as part of their respective VP information stored in VP data server 60. Billboards 40 and 50 may only broadcast or transmit VP information pertinent to those VPs that are currently open. For example, in scenario 300, VP 34 (e.g., a library) and VP 37 (e g., a grocery store) may be closed as AV 10 travels within V2I communication range 44 or 55, and thus billboards 40 and 50 may not transmit VP information relevant to VP 34 and VP 37 to AV 10, but only transmit VP information relevant to those VPs that are open at the moment, such as VPs 31, 32, 33, 35 and 36.

[0047] In some embodiments, VP data server 60 may control VP information of which VP or VPs may be transmitted from each infrastructure. For example, VP data server 60 may also have access to the memory that stores the itinerary of AV 10, know that AV 10 is traveling from origin 00 toward destination 01 along the predetermined route 00 - A - B - C - 01 - 03 - 04 as shown in FIG. 1 Accordingly, VP data server 60 may control billboard 40 to transmit VP information relevant to all the open VPs along the predetermined path (i.e., VPs 31, 32, 33 35 and 36 as AV 10 enters V2I communication range 44. However, VP data server 60 may control billboard 50 to transmit VP information relevant to VP 36 and VP 36 but not VP 31, VP 32 or VP 33, as AV 10 would already have passed VPs 31, 32 and 33 when AV 10 enters V2I communication range 55 and moves toward destination 01.

[0048] FIG. 4 illustrates a flowchart depicting an example process 400 in accordance with an embodiment of the present disclosure. Process 400 may include one or more operations, actions, or functions shown as blocks such as 410, 420, 430, 432, 434, 436, 440, 450, 460, 470 and 480 of FIG. 4. Although illustrated as discrete blocks, various blocks of process 400 may be divided into additional blocks, combined into fewer blocks, or eliminated, depending on the desired implementation. Process 400 may begin at block 410.

[0049] At 410, process 400 may involve a processor (e.g., computing server 80 of FIG. 1) receiving via point information relevant to a via point (e g., VP information regarding VP 02 of FIG. 1) in a vicinity of a predetermined route of a vehicle (e.g., predetermined route 00 - A - B - C - 01 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1). Process 400 may proceed from 410 to 420.

[0050] At 420, process 400 may involve the processor determining an alternative route (e.g., alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04 or 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1) for the vehicle based on the via point information and a map stored in a memory accessible to the processor. Specifically, the alternative route may include the via point (i.e., VP 02). Process 400 may proceed from 420 to 430.

[0051] At 430, process 400 may involve the processor performing a calculation (e.g., a profit calculation as described in eq. 1 - eq. 3 or in eq. 1, eq. 4 and eq. 5 above) for the alternative route based on the VP information (i.e., VP information regarding VP 02) and an itinerary of a next trip of the vehicle (e.g., the next trip with an origin at location 03 and a destination at location 04 as shown in FIG. 1). Block 430 may include sub-blocks 432, 434 and 436. Specifically, process 400 may proceed from 420 to 432.

[0052] At sub-block 432, process 400 may involve the processor calculating a first profit associated with traveling along the predetermined route, such as calculating estimated profit I according to eq. 1 described above. Process 400 may proceed from sub-block 432 to sub-block 434.

[0053] At sub-block 434, process 400 may involve the processor calculating a second profit associated with traveling along the alternative route, such as calculating estimated profit 2 according to eq. 2 or estimated _profit 3 according to eq. 4 as described above. Process 400 may proceed from sub-block 434 to sub-block 436.

[0054] At sub-block 436, process 400 may involve the processor calculating or otherwise estimating a profit margin associated with traveling along the alternative route as compared to traveling along the predetermined route based on a plurality of profit parameters and the itinerary of the next trip of the vehicle. Specifically, the profit margin is the second profit calculated at sub block 434 less the first profit calculated at sub-block 432, such as how Profit Margin is calculated according to eq. 3 or eq. 5 described above. Process 400 may proceed from sub-block 436 to block 440.

[0055] At 440, process 400 may involve the processor determining whether the profit margin calculated at sub-block 436 has a value that is greater than 0. In an event that the profit margin has a value greater than 0, process 400 may proceed from 440 to 450. In an event that the profit margin does not have a value greater than 0, process 400 may proceed from 440 to 480.

[0056] At block 450, process 400 may involve the processor presenting the alternative route (e.g., alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04 or 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04 of FIG. 1), or at least a portion of the alternative route that concerns the passenger (e.g., the portion 00 - A - B - 02 of the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 03 - 04, or the portion 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 of the alternative route 00 - A - B - 02 - 01 - 03 - 04), to the passenger in the vehicle (e g., passenger 14 in AV 10). Process 400 may proceed from 450 to 460.

[0057] At block 460, process 400 may involve the processor receiving a response from the passenger, and the response may indicate an approval or a disapproval of the alternative route by the passenger. In an event that the response indicates an approval, process 400 may proceed from 460 to 470. In an event that the response indicates a disapproval, or that the response indicates neither an approval nor a disapproval, process 400 may proceed from 460 to 480.

[0058] At block 470, process 400 may involve the processor, in an event that the processor and the memory are located in the vehicle, maneuvering the autonomous vehicle to travel along the alternative route. On the other hand, in an event that the processor and the memory located remotely from the vehicle, process 400 may involve the processor wirelessly transmitting commands to the autonomous vehicle to maneuver the autonomous vehicle to travel along the alternative route.

[0059] At block 480, the processor does not initiate any change of route, and the vehicle would simply continue traveling along the predetermined route.

[0060] FIG. 5 illustrates an example block diagram of an alternative route suggestion system 500 (hereinafter referred as“system 500”) implementable in scenario 100 of FIG. 1. System 500 may include a processor 510 and a memory 520 accessible to processor 510. As described above in the present disclosure, memory 520 may store itineraries of present and the next service trip of AV 10, present and future scheduled service trips of other taxi vehicles of the taxi fleet, a map of an area that AV 10 services, and a set of profit parameters used in profit calculation.

[0061] In some embodiments, processor 510 and memory 520 may be implemented or otherwise installed in an autonomous vehicle (such as AV 10 of FIG. 1), and the autonomous vehicle may be illustrated as AV 570 of FIG. 5, which includes an entirety of system 500. In some embodiments, processor 510 and memory 520 may be implemented such that they are located remotely away from an autonomous vehicle (e.g., implemented as computing server 80 of FIG. 1 that is remotely away from AV 10), and the autonomous vehicle may be illustrated as AV 560 in FIG. 5, which includes only a portion of system 500 (i.e., wireless transceiver 530 and HMI 540).

[0062] As shown in FIG. 5, system 500 may also include a wireless transceiver 530. For AV 570 which includes therein the entirety of system 500, wireless transceiver 530 comprises only a wireless receiver, which may only receive but not transmit. Specifically, wireless transceiver 530 of AV 570 may receive VP information from infrastructures as AV 10 is within a V2I communication range from the infrastructures (e.g., AV 10 of FIG. 1, as embodied in AV 570 of FIG. 5, may receive from billboard 40 VP information regarding VP 02 through wireless transceiver 530 as AV 10 enters V2I communication range 44). On the other hand, for AV 560 which is physically separated from processor 510 and memory 520, wireless transceiver 530 may also function to transmit or relay VP information received from infrastructures to processor 510 via a datalink 513. That is, while data link 513 may be a wired datalink for AV 570, datalink 513 is required to be a wireless link for AV 560.

[0063] System 500 may also include a F1MI 540, such as a visual display, touch screen or other kinds of HMI devices for presenting an alternative route for which a profit calculation shows positive result, as described above. HMI 540 may also capable of receiving either an approval or a disapproval of the alternative route from the passenger, also as described above. Similar to datalink 513, datalink 514 coupling HMI 540 and processor 510 is required to be a wireless link for AV 560, but may be a wired link for AV 570.

[0064] Moreover, system 500 may also include a datalink 515 between processor 510 and autonomous driving controller 550 of either AV 560 or AV 570. Through datalink 515, processor 510 may directly control driving controller 550 of AV 570 to maneuver AV 570 to travel along an alternative route in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route. Likewise, through datalink 515, processor 510 may transmit commands to control driving controller 550 of AV 560 such that control driving controller 550 may maneuver AV 560 to travel along an alternative route in an event that the passenger approves the alternative route. Similar to datalink 513 and datalink 514, datalink 515 is required to be a wireless link for AV 560, but may be a wired link for AV 570.

[0065] Although not shown in FIG. 5, in some embodiments, system 500 may also include a VP data server, such as VP data server 60 of FIG. 3.

[0066] As aforementioned in the present disclosure, although the methods and systems disclosed herein are exemplified with a goal to optimize or otherwise enhance an overall profit of an AV, same or similar concepts may be applied to achieve a goal of improving energy/power consumption of an AV. For example, instead of profit parameters such as per-mile revenue, per- mile driving cost, per-minute wait time charge and destination charges as described above, memory 520 may store a separate set of parameters (referred as“energy consumption parameters”) that may include parameters such as per-mile fuel consumption for each segment of the predetermined route and the alternative routes. Specifically, each segment of the roads may have a different per-mile power/fuel consumption parameter depending on various factors such as road type (e.g., highway, expressway, surface road), road grading (i.e., steepness of the slope of a road), road surface condition (e.g., smooth, rough, unpaved or bumpy), and the like. Moreover, the power/fuel parameters may be vehicle dependent, as each AV in the taxi fleet may be of a different make/model and a different odometer reading. Combining the energy consumption parameters with the methods disclosed above, embodiments of the present disclosure may be made to suggest alternative routes to an AV to reduce energy consumption and thereby improve performance of the AV.

[0067] In the above disclosure, reference has been made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific implementations in which the present disclosure may be practiced. It is understood that other implementations may be utilized, and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present disclosure. References in the specification to“one embodiment,”“an embodiment,”“an example embodiment,” etc., indicate that the embodiment described may include a particular feature, structure, or characteristic, but every embodiment may not necessarily include the particular feature, structure, or characteristic. Moreover, such phrases are not necessarily referring to the same embodiment. Further, when a particular feature, structure, or characteristic is described in connection with an embodiment, it is submitted that it is within the knowledge of one skilled in the art to affect such feature, structure, or characteristic in connection with other embodiments whether or not explicitly described.

[0068] Implementations of the systems, apparatuses, devices, and methods disclosed herein may comprise or utilize a special purpose or general-purpose computer including computer hardware, such as, for example, one or more processors and system memory, as discussed herein. Implementations within the scope of the present disclosure may also include physical and other computer-readable media for carrying or storing computer-executable instructions and/or data structures. Such computer-readable media can be any available media that can be accessed by a general purpose or special purpose computer system. Computer-readable media that store computer-executable instructions are computer storage media (devices). Computer-readable media that carry computer-executable instructions are transmission media. Thus, by way of example, and not limitation, implementations of the present disclosure can comprise at least two distinctly different kinds of computer-readable media: computer storage media (devices) and transmission media.

[0069] Computer storage media (devices) includes RAM, ROM, EEPROM, CD-ROM, solid state drives (“SSDs”) (e.g., based on RAM), Flash memory, phase-change memory (“PCM”), other types of memory, other optical disk storage, magnetic disk storage or other magnetic storage devices, or any other medium which can be used to store desired program code means in the form of computer-executable instructions or data structures and which can be accessed by a general purpose or special purpose computer.

[0070] An implementation of the devices, systems, and methods disclosed herein may communicate over a computer network. A“network” is defined as one or more data links that enable the transport of electronic data between computer systems and/or modules and/or other electronic devices. When information is transferred or provided over a network or another communications connection (either hardwired, wireless, or any combination of hardwired or wireless) to a computer, the computer properly views the connection as a transmission medium. Transmissions media can include a network and/or data links, which can be used to carry desired program code means in the form of computer-executable instructions or data structures and which can be accessed by a general purpose or special purpose computer. Combinations of the above should also be included within the scope of computer-readable media. [0071] Computer-executable instructions comprise, for example, instructions and data which, when executed at a processor, cause a general-purpose computer, special purpose computer, or special purpose processing device to perform a certain function or group of functions. The computer executable instructions may be, for example, binaries, intermediate format instructions such as assembly language, or even source code. Although the subject matter has been described in language specific to structural features and/or methodological acts, it is to be understood that the subject matter defined in the appended claims is not necessarily limited to the described features or acts described above. Rather, the described features and acts are disclosed as example forms of implementing the claims.

[0072] Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present disclosure may be practiced in network computing environments with many types of computer system configurations, including, an in-dash vehicle computer, personal computers, desktop computers, laptop computers, message processors, hand-held devices, multi-processor systems, microprocessor-based or programmable consumer electronics, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, mobile telephones, PDAs, tablets, pagers, routers, switches, various storage devices, and the like. The disclosure may also be practiced in distributed system environments where local and remote computer systems, which are linked (either by hardwired data links, wireless data links, or by any combination of hardwired and wireless data links) through a network, both perform tasks. In a distributed system environment, program modules may be located in both local and remote memory storage devices.

[0073] Further, where appropriate, functions described herein can be performed in one or more of: hardware, software, firmware, digital components, or analog components. For example, one or more application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) can be programmed to carry out one or more of the systems and procedures described herein. Certain terms are used throughout the description and claims to refer to particular system components. As one skilled in the art will appreciate, components may be referred by different names. This document does not intend to distinguish between components that differ in name, but not function.

[0074] It should be noted that the sensor embodiments discussed above may comprise computer hardware, software, firmware, or any combination thereof to perform at least a portion of their functions. For example, a sensor may include computer code configured to be executed in one or more processors and may include hardware logic/electrical circuitry controlled by the computer code. These example devices are provided herein purposes of illustration and are not intended to be limiting. Embodiments of the present disclosure may be implemented in further types of devices, as would be known to persons skilled in the relevant art(s).

[0075] At least some embodiments of the present disclosure have been directed to computer program products comprising such logic (e.g., in the form of software) stored on any computer useable medium. Such software, when executed in one or more data processing devices, causes a device to operate as described herein.

[0076] While various embodiments of the present disclosure have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example only, and not limitation. It will be apparent to persons skilled in the relevant art that various changes in form and detail can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the present disclosure. Thus, the breadth and scope of the present disclosure should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments but should be defined only in accordance with the following claims and their equivalents. The foregoing description has been presented for the purposes of illustration and description. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the present disclosure to the precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. Further, it should be noted that any or all of the aforementioned alternate implementations may be used in any combination desired to form additional hybrid implementations of the present disclosure.