RSS
Googling your way to better fuel economy
Ford is teaming with Google to develop a high-tech system that could predict driver behavior — and adjust a car's energy use in response
 
The driver's seat of a Ford S-MAX: The American carmaker is teaming with Google to try to predict drivers' habits, and help them save fuel.
The driver's seat of a Ford S-MAX: The American carmaker is teaming with Google to try to predict drivers' habits, and help them save fuel.
CC By: T.M.O.F.

Ford is hoping to make its hybrid cars even more efficient — with the help of Google. At the Google I/O Conference in San Francisco this week, the carmaker said it wants to use a tool called Google Prediction to plot out energy-saving changes for drivers. Here, a guide to Ford's plan:

What's the plan?
Ford wants to use Google Prediction to analyze drivers' tendencies, and come up with customized strategies for saving energy. The idea would make use of cloud-based computing "to collect and process information about how drivers use their vehicles," according to Stephen Lawson at PCWorld.

Umm... how would that actually work?
On a weekday morning, for example, an automated voice in the car could ask, "Good morning, are you going to work?" says Jim Motavalli in The New York Times. Once the driver confirms the destination, the car would use its stored traffic data to determine the best route, and automatically decide when to use its gas engine and when to turn to electric power. Normally, a Ford plug-in hybrid would use battery power for the first 40 miles of a trip, but using Google's tool, "the vehicle may decide to save the electric capacity for the last 20 miles of in-city driving to reduce air pollution in urban areas," says Liane Yvkoff at CNET. The same predictive tools would find ways to achieve better fuel efficiency.

So would my car tell me what to do?
No. Cars would adapt to their drivers' styles, not the other way around.

Isn't there a privacy issue here?
Ford says that drivers would have to "opt in," and agree to have their data collected. Individual data would be encrypted to protect against unauthorized use, according to Lawson at PCWorld.

When can I get this?
The work is "still in a research phase," says Motavalli in The New York Times, but Ford hopes to have these ideas ready for production in four to eight years.

Sources: CNET, New York Times, PCWorld

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week