Save Fuel With Your Smartphone

Eco Living
Aug 22nd, 2013 | By Laura Waldman

Fuel economy is clearly very important to American drivers, and yet many drivers have no idea that poor driving habits can reduce fuel economy by as much as one-third. Drivers typically evaluate vehicles by their fuel economy, but simple actions like strong accelerations, abrupt braking, and idling can stand in the way of taking full advantage of a vehicle’s efficiency potential.

“Charismatic Computers,” a dissertation by Stanford University psychologist B.J. Fogg, discusses how new technology can influence driving behavior. In his model, an action is the result of three elements—motivation, ability, and a trigger. Motivation is clear in the case of fuel economy; saving money as well as reducing a driver’s carbon footprint. Ability translates to being able to stay below 50 mph for example or avoid abrupt acceleration and braking. What Dr. Fogg explains is that the “trigger” element has been missing. Up until the introduction of the first hybrid vehicle in the late 1990s, drivers didn’t have a way of knowing how much fuel they were consuming at a given time. It wasn’t until The Honda Insight was introduced as the first car with a real-time fuel-consumption meter in the dash that this immediate fuel-efficiency trigger was introduced. Now, eco-friendly vehicles are loaded with a variety of technology designed to encourage better habits like the Ford Fusion’s LCD which displays leaves and vines to signify good driving. A study by the University of California Transportation Center found that when drivers were provided with instantaneous miles-per-gallon feedback, fuel economy improved on average by 6 percent on city streets. Conservatively, applying this technology across one-third of the cars in the U.S. would means billions of dollars in gas saved.

Smartphone apps also have the capability to give drivers a real-time response to their current driving habits. Apps like Automatic and Torque Pro include dongles that plugs into a car’s onboard diagnostics port. These bluetooth connected dongles then relay engine-performance information from a car’s onboard computer to an app, which will chime when it detects speeding, hard braking, or hard acceleration. Currently, Ford is sponsoring a challenge for developers to create an OpenXC app that will help drivers understand their personal fuel efficiency. OpenXC software is an open source software that can pull data from a car to your tablet or smartphone. Voting closes tomorrow so there’s still time to vote for your favorite app or submit an idea for features you think would really benefit drivers everywhere.

Ford isn’t the only company developing fuel-economy apps. In fact there are hundreds of fuel-efficiency apps out there for download. Here are a few we found:

Buick Fuel Efficiency Games Comprised of three interactive game experiences, this app was created to educate users about fuel-saving through Buick’s eAssist Technology.

Efficiency Pro At $3.99 this app is on the more sophisticated end. It taps into your car’s OBD-II, or On-board Diagnostic System, if you have one, to track your gas mileage while some apps require dutifully logging how much gasoline you buy and how many miles driven.

myFuelScore assigns a fuel efficiency score after observing your work commute. It will then instruct you on ways to change your habits that will help to get a lower score — like changing the route itself or altering your acceleration patterns.

goDriveGreen tracks your driving style and keeps tabs on your fuel cost as well as speed, idling, and acceleration/deceleration speeds that ultimately determines a “Green Score.”

Commute Greener! is a free application for download that tracks your carbon footprint with an online network. The app encourages sharing your improvements with friends and motivates users to take public transportation.

With 70% of U.S. imported oil being used for ground transportation, Sustainable America aims to reduce the amount of oil used for transportation by 50% by 2035. Increasing fuel efficiency with new technologies like smartphone apps and introducing conservation strategies into our daily routines will have a meaningful impact on the effort to reduce our nation’s oil consumption. Knowledge is power, and apps like these help drivers take control of their bad habits to save significant gas and money in easy ways.

Another great way to save fuel is by turning off your car instead of idling. American driver’s idle an average of 16 minutes per day, half of which isn’t spent stuck in traffic.. With approximately 210,000,000 licensed drivers in the U.S. each potentially saving 0.075 gallons per day, that translates to over 15 million gallons of gas that could be saved per day if we cut our idling time in half. This simple change in behavior to turn it off can make a huge difference. To learn more about our Turn It Off campaign and take the pledge to stop idling visit!

Tagged: fossil fuels, sustainable living, fuel cost, fuel efficiency cars, oil prices, fuel efficiency, fuel prices, alternative fuels, fuel saving, smart apps, openxc, Green Living

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