The Ford Motor Company has recently announced a $50,000 challenge for today’s best app developers. Looking to regain the claimed fuel economy of some of its hybrids, Ford is offering a $50,000 award to developers who can create the best mobile or web-based apps that will help customers easily access their personal fuel-economy performance data and increase their fuel economy.
Based upon the OpenXC platform, the apps will allow customers the ability to learn how to optimize their fuel efficiency habits. The app promotion will be free and should appeal to most.
Driver behavior is probably the leading cause of unoptimized fuel efficiency, so Ford is hoping to encourage drivers to change their driving habits by giving them data that will help them understand how to become more fuel efficient.
“We have found that there are so many factors impacting the fuel economy people get, especially with hybrids across the industry, that we want to be the company that gives drivers the best tools to manage their own personal fuel economy,” Farley said at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.
Ford is definitely working outside the box on this by risking its intellectual property. Opening its hardware and software platforms to outsiders is a risk that most companies in the auto industry would not dare to take. But to remain the “most influential” brand in the auto industry on the topic of fuel economy, according to New York research firm Appinions, it’s a risk Ford is willing to take.
Ford has taken some heat for its C-Max hybrid. The hybrid is advertised to get 47 mpg, but many are complaining the car does not get anywhere near that in real-world driving. This is surprising, since everyone knows that testing for the claimed MPG is set in an ideal environment and the standards are set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Unless you are driving like a grandmother on a level road in the spring time, don’t expect to get the advertised MPG.
Farley says that Ford is in talks with the EPA to modify the testing procedures, especially around hybrids. “Hybrids is where you see the most variability in how personal driving habits and weather conditions and other factors most greatly impact real-world fuel economy,” says Farley. Weather and how aggressively a driver works the gas pedal are two big factors, he said.
Farley also hinted that the auto industry, with or without help from government regulators, needed to clean up the often confusing fuel economy claims that companies advertise. Instead of advertising the best highway fuel economy it should be a combined city and highway average.
Maybe with these bold steps Ford Motor Company can help redefine the auto industry and help identify how the best fuel efficiency can be achieved.