between the two LCD screens of the SmartGauge.
Launching a new technology - such as the growing
segment of hybrid cars - without preparing the public awareness to use it
at its best, will always remain like trying to applaud with one hand.
There is always the owner handbook, but how can we
adapt our driving style in every single moment to make the most of what
our hybrid car was made for?
That's what the instant fuel consumption gauges gave us
over the last few years, in our regular gasoline (petrol) or diesel cars,
and that's what the new generation gauges, such as Ford’s SmartGauge
with EcoGuide system, are here to do, since we'll have from now on the
fuel tank and... the battery charge and recharge cycles.
After all, what is the point of buying a hybrid car if
it's not going to be exploited for what it was designed for primarily: to
drive most efficiently, or at the best performance/consumption point, most
of the time, to get its best value-for-money and other psychological,
safety and quality advantages that you can find in the Fusion
Hybrid 1,000-Mile Challenge feature.
screens show different levels of information.
The rationale behind Ford’s SmartGauge with
EcoGuide is simple. Designed to help drivers to optimize performance
of the 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrids, the SmartGauge guides
the user with two LCD (liquid crystal display) screens on either side of
the analog speedometer.
The two high-resolution, full-colour LCD screens can be
configured to show different levels of information, including fuel and
battery power levels, average and instant miles-per-gallon.
To develop the instrument cluster with an intuitive
interface, Ford collaborated with IDEO and Smart Design, two world leaders
in helping consumers connect with technology in a confident way.
“The main question hybrid drivers had was: ‘How do
I know I'm getting the most out of my hybrid?’ ” said Jeff Greenberg,
Ford senior technical leader. “We needed... a system that better
communicates with drivers... That’s what SmartGauge with EcoGuide does.”
To put these principles in practice, the driver is
first engaged by the SmartGauge displays, on either side of the
centre-mounted analog speedometer, with a special greeting that combines
illumination and graphics.
EcoGuide then uses a multi-layered approach to
coach the driver to maximum fuel efficiency. A tutorial mode built into
the display helps the driver learn about the instrument cluster and the
Drivers can choose one of four data screens to
select the information level they wish to have displayed during their
drives. They are:
- Inform: Fuel level and battery charge status,
- Enlighten: Adds electric vehicle mode indicator and tachometer,
- Engage: Adds engine and battery output power,
- Empower: Adds power to wheels, engine pull-up threshold and
accessory power consumption.
All levels can show instant fuel economy, fuel economy
history, odometer, what gear the car is in, trip data (trip fuel economy,
time-elapsed fuel economy and miles to empty) and coolant temperature with
an indicator which turns green when the engine becomes warm enough to
allow engine pull-down.
Ford says that at the core of the instrument cluster’s
design was an understanding that the Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV)
experience evolves and deepens over time, and the technology needed to
The four levels of information can be customized
to fit each driver’s needs or situation. On the highway, only basic
information may be considered necessary. In a city, additional information
can be called from the system to optimize fuel economy.
Long-term fuel efficiency can be displayed as a
traditional chart or using a display that shows “growing leaves and
vines” on the right side of the cluster. The more efficient a driver
is, the more lush and beautiful the leaves and vines, creating a visual
reward for his / her driving efficiency skills.
Additionally, the real-time system feedback
allows drivers to assess or modify their driving habits to
achieve maximum fuel economy. Also, a shutdown screen reviews important
information from the latest trip, including fuel economy performance and
comparative data from previous days.
Prototype testing was done in Ford’s Virtual Text
Track Experiment (VIRTTEX) simulator. While test drivers were interacting
with the new technology, engineers were gathering data and refining
SmartGauge to avoid drivers distraction.
“When you’re driving, you have a second or so to
look at your display,” Greenberg said. “A dense display isn’t going
to work. SmartGauge with EcoGuide is designed to minimize distraction
caused by multiple displays. We (eliminated) extraneous movement and
(designed) a smooth, fluid display.”
The instantaneous fuel economy gauge, for example, can
be shown or hidden at each of the EcoGuide levels.
Greenberg added: “In VIRTTEX, for example, we learned
that you can’t overlay multiple levels of information. One of our design
goals then became to geographically separate the information so it can be
better understood while driving.”
The times of comparing raw power and maximum speed
figures is hopefully over. More civilised and clever skills are emerging
with safety and environment in mind, and let the more refined win, in both
dynamic and efficient driving techniques.