Fiat revs up new free fuel tool

Eco Drive lets drivers analyze and improve personal fuel consumption using any USB drive and some free software.

We've all heard the recommendations by now.

Proper tire pressure, removing the roof rack, closing windows above 50 mph, and using a car's air flow system before going straight for the AC can all lead to lowering a car's overall fuel consumption.

But exactly how bad are drivers when it comes to abruptly starting and stopping? And are they really shifting their manual transmission car correctly for optimizing fuel?

Fiat's new optional Eco Drive software will let its drivers know, the company announced earlier this month at the 2008 Paris Motor Show .

All Fiat drivers need is a USB drive and Microsoft's Blue&Me system.

Blue&Me is an onboard computer system currently offered in some Fiats and Alfa Romeos, and possibly soon, in Ford cars, as well. It enables drivers to listen to their MP3 player, make calls on their cell phone, and have text messages read aloud to them. The system includes a USB port, which Fiat has announced could be the key to a 15 percent reduction in a car's CO2 emissions.

Drivers can download the free Eco Drive software from the Internet to their computer and plug in any normal USB drive. Drivers then plug the prepped USB drive into their car's Blue&Me system and it will automatically start collecting data on the car.

The program will measure a driver's fuel consumption, speed, braking style, and even how efficiently he or she shifts gears with their manual transmission. It seems very similar in functionality to the PLX Kiwi from PLX Devices that plugs in to a car's diagnostics port.

Upon plugging the USB drive back into the computer, the software does an analysis of driving habits and makes specific suggestions for improvement. Users can also opt to join an online community of drivers called Fiat ecoVille.

The new software ties in to a campaign Fiat already has in play giving tips on saving fuel. While the bias is toward the Fiat car, the tips are useful for any driver.

For those non-Fiat drivers interested in collecting this type of data, there's always the PLX Kiwi or the Scan Gauge II .

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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