Real-time Feedback Promotes Efficient Use of Energy

Michael Giberson

Tom Igoe, a physical-computing researcher at New York University, said the Prius mpg display is one of the best examples of technology “where green meets information systems.”

“For a long time,” he said, “we have known that people will change their habits if they are exposed to feedback in real time.”

From “For Hybrid Drivers, Every Trip Is a Race for Fuel Efficiency” in the Washington Post. The article notes that real time energy use tools are available for the home as well.

Interesting article. I wonder whether some of the hypermilers described in the article — when they took longer routes to avoid going up steep hills — were actually always saving energy. But on the whole, we’d all be better off with more direct feedback on our energy consumption decisions.

4 thoughts on “Real-time Feedback Promotes Efficient Use of Energy

  1. Those hypermilers may be making some mistakes, but they are searching for better ways — and mistakes are inevitable. The important thing is that they are paying a lot of attention to their behavior.

    I have a 1987 BWM with an analogue real time mileage indicator (as well as trip computer). I tell you that I watch that sucker all the time (besides when I am about to rear-end someone), and I get 23mpg (>18mpg!) because of it.

  2. Good point!

    I wonder when someone will marry in-car navigation systems with topographical data and real-time traffic information to produce a least-energy travel plan? Ideally, the system would allow the user to indicate desired time/energy-use trade-off so when in a hurry it would bias the trip shorter in time, and when less hurried would bias the trip toward lowest-energy use.

    And, and Zetland’s comment reminds us, just because such a system may not be perfectly right all of the time, it could promote and improvement for consumers.

  3. Setting the cruise control at the speed limit also results in highway mileage ~10% higher than the “old” EPA sticker and probably 20% higher than the “new and improved” EPA sticker.

  4. Interesting and true. Interesting because it seems to be counter the ‘give the driver instant feedback’ approach, and seems to take the driver a little more out of the instant feedback loop.

    It is like having a “maintain current speed” policy lever that you can weakly commit too. Since that policy is more economical than continous modest accelerations and decelerations that most highway drivers engage in, pulling that policy lever works.

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