Ford has announced a new feature on its onboard navigation system that will allow drivers to optimize fuel consumption, and not necessarily travel time. Here's the official word from Ford, via Treehugger:
When a driver provides a destination to the navigation system, MyFord Touch accesses historical and real-time traffic data as well as posted speed information to calculate three navigation options: Fastest, Shortest and Eco-Route.

Eco-Route is not necessarily the fastest or shortest route but is the most fuel efficient. Typically, it charts a course that avoids congested freeways while maximizing the use of major roads where the driver can maintain an efficient rate of speed. When Ford of Europe engineers tested the feature, they achieved up to a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy using the Eco-Route.

Definitely an interesting proposition from Ford, though the true efficacy of such a system remains questionable. For one, the system itself is limited by the engine efficiency of the vehicle. Plug one of these into a gas-guzzler and the best you can hope for is to match up to a more economical vehicle already on the market.

And in the real world where the driving environment is less than ideal, attempting to adjust a few variables seems futile, at best. Traffic is traffic, and if routes existed that would provide clear driving (and usually, better fuel efficiency), then you would've been taking them already. Or, your current GPS device would've pointed you to that direction. Current navigation systems already account for congested areas, which makes the Eco-Route feature seem redundant in most cases.

Still, you can't blame Ford for trying. The system isn't meant to be the Holy Grail of gas consumption, and it should be a nifty add-on for those days when driving conditions are more ideal than usual. If anything, it should be a nice conversation starter for those awkward cocktail mixers: "Did I mention that my Ford can calculate the most fuel-efficient way to get from point A to point B?"

Check out Treehugger for the full post.

Photo from Treehugger, courtesy of Ford.

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