Every driver interested in cutting back on fuel consumption, saving their brakes and learning to be a better motorist should be interested in Fiat’s EcoDrive software. This software was announced at the 2008 Paris Motor Show as a product that Fiat will begin to offer on a large scale by the end of this year. The EcoDrive software package is capable of analyzing a driver’s average speed, braking, gear efficiency and fuel use over thousands of miles.
Fiat’s new software requires drivers to purchase a Microsoft Blue & Me system before analyzing driving patterns. The Blue & Me is a versatile onboard unit that allows motorists to focus entirely on the road. This onboard computer provides audio for incoming text messages, access to hands-free cell phone use and compatibility with most MP3 players.
The Blue & Me features a USB port that allows drivers to transfer the EcoDrive software easily. Every motorist can download the software from their computer to a USB drive and upload EcoDrive into the Blue & Me. The software provides driving suggestions and detailed reports on fuel consumption once the USB drive is inserted back into a home computer. Fiat is also developing a social networking component through its website that will help newcomers navigate through EcoDrive reports. While Microsoft intended this unit to improve the daily commute, Fiat hopes that the Blue & Me can help reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent.
Fiat has already started offering EcoDrive software for Fiat and Alfa Romeo models following the Paris Motor Show. Ford Motor Company has expressed interest in the EcoDrive software and other automakers are keeping an eye on Fiat’s progress. While devices like the Scan Gauge II exist to provide diagnostic reports for concerned motorists, Fiat’s EcoDrive takes the use of onboard computers to the next level.
The Paris Motor Show unveiling of EcoDrive exposes a significant gap between computer technology and the auto industry. While automakers are finding ways to accommodate MP3 players and DVD players, they have largely ignored the use of portable technology to reduce fuel consumption. The Toyota Prius is the one vehicle on the road today that comes to mind when thinking about onboard computing as a catalyst for efficient driving. If Ford, Chrysler and other motor companies want to stay competitive, they will need to copy Fiat until they have sufficient R&D capabilities to leap ahead.