Encouraging Fuel Efficiency

Via Jeremy Liew: Popular Science has published an article that describes how the 2010 Honda Insight (a hybrid vehicle) uses some principles of video games to encourage more fuel efficient driving behavior. The car’s multi-information display includes a progress meter — a (leafless) virtual plant. The plant’s empty branches grow leaves over time, as a result of efficient driving behavior recorded by the car’s onboard computer. The multi-information display helps teach the driver how to drive more efficiently (and thus, gain leaves) by signaling the impact of excessive stopping and starting, inefficient acceleration, etc.

This isn’t a short-term game, either. Over the car’s entire lifetime, a thrifty driver can earn a second tier of leaves, then a flower on each branch. The screen will eventually display a trophy if a driver performs well enough for a long enough period of time.

What I like about this idea is not just that it makes fuel-efficient driving more interesting. If Honda is smart, they could turn this into an incentive to purchase more Honda vehicles in the future. After all, when the time comes to purchase another car, you wouldn’t want to lose the virtual trophy that you had worked so hard to earn, would you? Well, why should you have to lose it? Just purchase another vehicle from Honda, and all the trophies you earned in your previous vehicle can be transferred over to the new one! Of course, this would work much better if you could earn trophies for other activities in addition to efficient driving, and it would work much better still if the accumulation of trophies led to concrete real-world benefits, like an “exclusive” t-shirt with the Honda logo on it, an entry into an exciting prize sweepstakes, a 5% discount on your next vehicle…

204 Responses to Encouraging Fuel Efficiency

  1. My dad is an extreme driving efficiency nut and he bought and Insight back in 2003. I picked up on the game-like aspects of their initial interface, which is much cruder than the one described. My dad actually focuses his driving entirely around the mpg variable, letting speed, battery charge, and rpm rotate around the goal of maxing the mileage.

    However I think you’re reading the meta-game wrong. The idea behind the car is to encourage a maximal period of use, precisely the opposite of Detroit’s prior history of marketing strategy. Honda is aiming for long-tail, value added drivers who may only buy the Honda vehicle for the next 10-15 years. It’s a smart play toward a market that has a higher chance of existing in the future than the SUV market. You are aware that we’ve past peak credit and are barreling toward peak oil, I presume.

  2. > The idea behind the car is to encourage a maximal period of use

    Unless you believe that Honda intends to begin manufacturing cars that last forever, I’m not sure how “maximum use” is incompatible with a metagame that encourages the future purchase of Honda vehicles (among other things, of course.)

    > You are aware that we’ve past peak credit and are barreling toward peak oil, I presume.

    How is this relevant? Right now, the metagame encourages efficient driving. That’s great in and of itself. The question I raised was: can it *also* encourage greater loyalty to Honda? (Or, for that matter, can it increase the likelihood that you will recommend Honda to your friends?)

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