Thursday, August 27, 2015

Coming: Cars that drive you

Driving a hybrid car is not as simple a relationship as it sounds, because to some extent the car drives you. That is, the feedback you get from the display on a Prius, showing you exactly how much fuel you're consuming moment-to-moment, can alter your driving patterns as you attempt to maximize the time you have a "99 MPG" reading.

Coming: Cars that drive you

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Driving a hybrid car is not as simple a relationship as it sounds, because to some extent the car drives you. That is, the feedback you get from the display on a Prius, showing you exactly how much fuel you're consuming moment-to-moment, can alter your driving patterns as you attempt to maximize the time you have a "99 MPG" reading.

That's certainly what happened to me. But the simple bar graph of the Prius is yesterday's news, as newer technologies take the concept of fuel-efficiency feedback to new levels. Via Treehugger, we hear of two of these: One is a Nissan gas pedal that literally provides "pushback" against aggressive driving. The other is a more organic, evolving display from Ford that responds to good driving with aesthetically pleasing visuals." The more efficient a customer is, the more lush and beautiful the leaves and vines, creating a visual reward for the driver’s efforts."

Both of these are cool ideas, but they're still just baby steps compared to the inevitable next generation of feedback. For one thing, while the Nissan pedal-pusher is supposedly drawing on various factors to determine when your foot is truly leaden, it doesn't take topography into account (i.e. the upcoming effect of an uphill or downhill) nor does it know if you're giving the car a lot of gas to prepare for a prolonged glide. I'm betting that future versions will incorporate GPS and trip-memory so that commuters who cover the same ground every day can get feedback that's tailored to exactly where they are and what the terrain has in store.

And as for the leaves, that's a great visual "reward" for the crunchy-granola types who are already buying hybrids, but if we're going to expand the market, let's think outside the tree: If the display featured a progressively racy striptease as a reward for fuel efficiency, you might see erstwhile Hummer drivers maxing out at 60, 70 or 80 MPG! Then again, if the display gets too enticing we might really be thinking outside the tree - as the car is wrapped around it. Back to the drawing board!

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Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

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Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.


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Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.


Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...


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Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.


Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.


In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man





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