MFG 2.0

Innovative Ford Hybrid Display One-Ups The Prius

True confession -- I've driven a Prius. And I enjoyed the hell out of it. (I actually fit in it, which was surprising in itself -- am not a small guy.) And the best part was, I rented it from Avis, drove around Florida for three days, and saved double the extra amount ($5) to rent a hybrid in gas savings.

Of course, this was back in the days of the Big Gas Price Spike. Even so, I'd probably still have broke even, because I was trying my darndest to engage in some amateur "hypermiling" (trying to goose as much mileage out of each gallon). Even in my relatively untrained state, I broke 50 mpg numerous times.

How'd I break the 50 mpg barrier? Simple. I watched my fuel usage on the Prius' center console feedback display like a hawk, got drawn into the "efficiency video game" effect that such constant fuel usage feedback encourages, and before I knew it I was coasting and drafting and treating the gas pedal like a delicate flower. And being rewarded by some great gas mileage. In fact, watching the graphs drop when the accelerator was jammed down was like watching ... Toyota's earnings lately.

In fact, the only distraction (well, besides driving) was having to keep turning my gaze away from the road to look over at the center-mounted display. I remember thinking -- can't someone integrate this type of efficiency game experience into the regular instrument panel? Because I would play that game.

Which is exactly what Ford has done with its SmartGauge display.

From the press release (via Autoblog):

For instance, drivers can choose one of four data screens to choose the information level displayed during their drives.
All levels can show instant fuel economy, fuel economy history, odometer, engine coolant temperature, what gear the car is in and trip data (trip fuel economy, time-elapsed fuel economy and miles to empty).
The four levels of information can be customized to fit each driver's needs or situation. If cruising on the highway, for instance, only basic information may be desired. Once a driver moves off the highway into a city, additional information to optimize fuel economy may be desired and can be easily accessed.

Long-term fuel efficiency can be displayed in two ways either as a traditional chart or using an innovative display that shows "growing leaves and vines" on the right side of the cluster.

OK, that last touch may be a bit overmuch, but still -- look at this thing, and watch the video, and tell me you're not impressed.

TAGS: Innovation
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