Idle speed control is a landmark application of feedback control in automotive vehicles that continues to be of significant interest to automotive industry practitioners, since improved idle performance and robustness translate into better fuel economy, emissions and drivability. In this paper, we develop a model predictive control (MPC) strategy for regulating the engine speed to the idle speed set-point by actuating the electronic throttle and the spark timing. The MPC controller coordinates the two actuators according to a specified cost function, while explicitly taking into account constraints on the control and requirements on the acceptable engine speed range, e.g., to avoid engine stalls. Following a process proposed here for the implementation of MPC in automotive applications, an MPC controller is obtained with excellent performance and robustness as demonstrated in actual vehicle tests. In particular, the MPC controller performs better than an existing baseline controller in the vehicle, is robust to changes in operating conditions, and to different types of disturbances. It is also shown that the MPC computational complexity is well within the capability of production electronic control unit and that the improved performance achieved by the MPC controller can translate into fuel economy improvements.
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