A new in-car software application helps drivers reduce CO2 emissions
Car Manufacturers have made tremendous progress in reducing vehicle emissions. Today’s cars create far less pollution and emit far less carbon dioxide compared with those built a decade ago.
Much of that progress is due to in-car computers that adjust fuel flow or air intake. But those computers only interact with other hardware components in the car. What if the car could talk to drivers and enlist their aid to reduce emissions? That’s the idea behind EcoDrive, developed by Microsoft and Fiat, and launched in 2008.
Developed with Microsoft technology, EcoDrive is the world’s first device that interacts directly with drivers and can help them change their driving habits in ways that can reduce vehicle emissions. With EcoDrive, Fiat and Microsoft have developed a method to monitor motorist behavior on the road and offer analysis and advice after a trip is completed. EcoDrive makes drivers an active part of a car’s emissions-control system and does so in a way that’s both enjoyable and easy to use.
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People tend to drive their cars inefficiently, consuming a lot of fuel, emitting large amounts of CO2 and leading to unnecessary expenditure.
Microsoft in partnership with Fiat has developed ‘EcoDrive’ an innovative, easy-to-use computer application for Fiat cars that analyzes people’s driving style and gives them recommendations about how to drive more efficiently.
- The driver learns how to improve his/her driving style to consume less fuel
- By reducing his/her fuel consumption, the driver reduces CO2 emissions and saves money.
EcoDrive is built on Blue&Me, a Bluetooth-based system developed jointly by Fiat and Microsoft that gives drivers hands-free control over digital music players, mobile telephones, and other devices. In Fiat cars equipped with Blue&Me, the EcoDrive system assesses the driver’s driving style during a normal driving day. The way a driver accelerates, brakes, and shifts is automatically measured and analyzed against the car’s fuel economy and exhaust emissions.
On arriving home, the driver removes a standard USB flash drive from a USB port on the dashboard or the glove compartment, plugs it into a computer and downloads information about his or her most recent driving excursion. A software application then tells the motorist how many kilograms of emissions the car produced during the most recent drive and how the driver can reduce those emissions by driving in a more environmentally friendly way.
Fiat executives say EcoDrive resulted from the realization that car manufacturers were ignoring one of the components of greater impact on vehicle emissions: driving style. "We spend hundreds of millions of euros redesigning engines and improving the aerodynamics and power trains, all for minimal improvements in emissions—maybe 2 or 3 percent," says Luis Cilimingras, Fiat Advertising Manager. "But if you think about it, there is a margin of improvement in the way people drive of maybe 20 percent because people don’t always drive in a perfect way. So it looked to us like we could take a holistic approach to the emissions by helping the customer to do a little bit more."
When a USB port is integrated into a car’s dashboard, Blue&Me creates opportunities for innovative devices such as Fiat’s EcoDrive. "This is a real first," says Cilimingras. "For the first time, we can extract data from an ordinary car right out of the factory and send it to a notebook computer or personal computer."
A typical Fiat—already among the most environmentally friendly cars in Europe—emits about 150 grams of CO2 per kilometer, or about 2 metric tons in a typical driving year. This makes an annual reduction of nearly 400 kilograms of CO2 possible. Motorists also can reduce fuel consumption and save money.
EcoDrive illustrates the potential of software technology to reduce automobile emissions worldwide. In the United States, for instance, automobiles account for about one-quarter of annual emissions of CO2, the gas primarily responsible for global warming. The reduction of emissions by 20 or even 10 percent through better driving habits would make a huge contribution to car manufacturers’ efforts to produce more environmentally friendly cars.
"Microsoft and its partners share a vision for transforming the driving experience by connecting motorists seamlessly and conveniently to the people and information they care about while they are on the road," said Martin Thall, General Manager of Microsoft Auto. "By building on the Microsoft Auto platform, Fiat's ability to innovate and create market-defining in-car technology allows the company to build even further on its reputation for driver-centric innovation and design. eco:Drive ™ builds on that tradition.”
ABOUT FIAT GROUP:
Founded in 1899, Fiat is an automotive-focused industrial Group. It is active on world markets through five different business areas and their operating companies that employ over 180,000 people. Its automobile branch, Fiat Group Automobiles, is one of the leading car manufacturers in the world. It designs, produces and sells cars world-wide under the Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Fiat Professional and Abarth brands. Maserati and Ferrari, which manufacture luxury sports cars, are also part of the Fiat Group. Since its foundation, Fiat has produced approximately 90 million cars.