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US DOE opens “Apps for Vehicles” challenge; leveraging open data for fuel efficiency and safety

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Program (VTP) officially opened the Apps for Vehicles Challenge, which is offering $50,000 in prizes for the best business plans, app ideas and product designs that use open vehicle data to improve safety and fuel efficiency through technology innovation. The challenge had been announced earlier at the DOE’s Energy Datapalooza event in October.

In launching the challenge, Pat Davis, Vehicle Technologies Program Manager, noted that existing applications are just beginning to explore the possibilities of open vehicle data, and that OBD (onboard diagnostics port) diagnostic data and other sources of vehicle data have the potential to power significant improvements in vehicle efficiency and safety.

The OBD access port is on every car in the US built after 1996. The non-proprietary information streams on the vehicle’s OBD vary slightly by manufacturer but generally include parameters such as vehicle and engine speed, throttle and brake position, and engine fault status.

For years, primarily mechanics and emissions inspectors using expensive equipment accessed this data. But new hardware technologies, GPS, smart consumer electronics and the advent of cloud computing is making the OBD increasingly accessible to vehicle owners.

The submissions will be judged on potential impact; creativity and inovation; use of open vehicle data (a requirement); and plan viability. The judges are VTP’s Pat Davis; Patrick Kennedy, CEO, OSISoft; Venkatesh Prasad, Senior Technical Leader, Open Innovation and Member, Ford Technology Advisory Board; and Jo Strang, Associate Administrator, Safety Data Initiative, Department of Transportation.

The deadline for the first phase of the competition is 15 January 2013. The best plans and products will be selected for phase two of the competition, and the teams will have the opportunity to work with the Energy Department and private sector automotive experts to put their app design into action.


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