Neither system offers constructive criticism — you won't hear your car tell you, "Back off on the throttle, pal." But the two automakers say providing drivers with data and rewards will make them more efficient.
When new hybrids from Ford and Honda roll into showrooms this spring, drivers will find flashy dashboards that turn hypermiling into a videogame.
It's easy to dismiss the LCD displays as gimmicks — and some have — but we're going see more of them. Auto designers, academics and industry watchers say it won't be long before everyone's offering green gauges in an effort to make us all greener drivers. Some automakers are even thinking about using emerging technology in in-car internet development to let people compare stats and compile "top score" leader boards to make green driving a social activity.
"That kind of eye candy has huge appeal to consumers," says Eric Noble, president of The Car Lab, an auto industry consulting firm. "They'll provide huge amounts of information regarding fuel economy. There already are prototypes that are 3-D."