In the world of racing, everyone knows that the easiest way to get more speed out of a car is not to upgrade the car, but to upgrade the driver. The same goes for green driving. A driver trained in efficient driving can extract better fuel economy from a Honda Fit than a driver with poor technique in a Prius hybrid. Auto manufacturer Fiat thinks it may have found a way to teach drivers to get the best fuel economy out of their Fiat vehicles with the new eco:Drive program.
The eco:Drive program consists of a downloadable Adobe AIR application and a Microsoft Blue&Me equipped Fiat vehicle. For now, that means drivers of the Fiat 500 and the Grande Punto, but the upcoming is expected to be equipped with the Blue&Me system as well. Users will also need a USB thumbdrive to transport data from the vehicle to the computer.
The process is as follows: Users download the application from Fiat's Web site and install it on their computer. Next, users will use the application to enter information about their vehicle and prepare the USB drive to transport data. It doesn't have to be a blank drive, and the files installed occupied only 223KB of space, but we expect that size to bloat just a bit as data is collected. Finally, users plug the USB stick into the USB port on their Blue&Me system. The system records anonymous information about driving habits and techniques.
When plugged back into the computer, the eco:Drive application analyzes the information and offers tips to improve fuel economy and emissions. Users are able to track their progress, mileage, and emissions from the application's interface. Interestingly, there's a social aspect to the eco:Drive program called Ecoville, which shows how many drivers are using the system and how well the community is doing.
We were able to download the eco:Drive application, but weren't able to fully test the system, as Fiat vehicles with Blue&Me aren't readily available in the United States. However, Fiat Group member Alfa Romeo is planning its return to , so we may see this system in use on the vehicles it brings over.