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Ford launches app developer challenge to improve consumer understanding of personal fuel efficiency

Ford launched a $50,000 challenge for software developers to write innovative apps to help consumers better understand and improve their personal fuel efficiency. The Ford challenge echoes the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) $50,000 Apps for Vehicles challenge. (Earlier post.)

Participants will have access to Ford’s OpenXC connectivity research platform as a sandbox to create and test their ideas for the Personalized Fuel Efficiency Apps Challenge. Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president of Global Marketing, Sales and Service and Lincoln, announced the contest at the 2013 New York International Auto Show.

Consumers are looking for help when it comes to understanding their own fuel economy performance. By connecting through technology already built into our cars, we have the capability to share information that will empower drivers to better understand, learn from and improve their personal fuel efficiency.

—Jim Farley

Many elements factor into personal fuel efficiency including weather, terrain, traffic conditions and individual driving styles. The goal of the developer challenge is to find ways to enable drivers to optimize fuel efficiency during their time on the road. By mashing up real-time data provided by the car with the vast quantities of real-time and historical data available online developers can detect patterns and deliver products, services and experiences that are tailored to a market size of one.

OpenXC is an open-source platform developed by Ford for research applications, and consists of a software and hardware development kit that enables access to a wide array of vehicle data that may be used as inputs to apps.

Using the on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) port found on every new car built since 1996, OpenXC can read real-time sensor data such as mileage, longitude, latitude, throttle position, engine and vehicle speed, as well as calculated values including instantaneous and average fuel efficiency. Ford also provides OpenXC with access to additional nonstandard messages such as whether a vehicle’s windshield wipers are on or off.

More than 1,500 developers have registered to download the OpenXC software development kit since it became publicly available in January 2013. The OpenXC platform site includes some example projects built with the kit such as a customizable gauge, nighttime collision warning and a Bluetooth heads-up display.

Over the next several months, developers will have the opportunity to develop and submit software applications. Entries will be evaluated on criteria such as how the developers use vehicle data, design a consumer-friendly user interface and demonstrate product viability. Developers are encouraged to include the fusion of multiple data types, novel algorithms, and data aggregation techniques and interfaces that are tailored to assist users in changing their behavior.

Developers can get help and assist others with projects through the OpenXC Google Group or the official IRC channel at #openxc on Freenode (irc:// In the near future Ford engineers will begin a tour of TechShop locations around the United States including Detroit, the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin and Pittsburgh to provide OpenXC workshops for staff, TechShop members and the general public.

A recent survey of consumer attitudes conducted by Penn Schoen Berland for Ford affirms the increasing importance of fuel economy:

  • Half of all drivers measure their fuel economy every time they fill the tank or have the car serviced

  • Most consumers would change the way they drive if they knew it would significantly improve fuel economy: 79% would change acceleration; 68% would change their speed; 62% would choose a different route

  • Nearly three out of four drivers said they already make an effort to drive more efficiently

We see the car as a platform on which others can create and build solutions tailored to individual needs.

—Venkatesh Prasad, Ford senior technical leader for Open Innovation


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