You no longer need the latest car to keep track of vital vehicle data--only the latest app for your smart phone. The Apps for Vehicles Challenge, announced in October by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a competition aimed at creating innovative and accessible apps that employ vehicle information to help drivers improve fuel efficiency and safety. Four winners were selected from an initial group of nearly 40 entries. The nominees were judged on several factors, including use of open vehicle data, accessibility to consumers, and capacity to aid drivers in improving fuel efficiency.

We outline the winning entries below.

Judges Grand Prize ($17,000): Dash Labs, Inc.

New York City based Dash Labs, Inc. won over the judges with DASH, an app that utilizes an Onboard Diagnostic Reader, or OBD II, which is compatible with all vehicles sold in the United States after 1996. The OBD II easily plugs into your car, then feeds vehicle performance information in real time to your phone. The app keeps track of your information privately and securely, while also allowing you to monitor your fuel efficiency and carbon footprint, as well as the total ownership cost of your vehicle, including insurance, maintenance and gas.

With the information it collects, DASH is able to run diagnostics in real time should anything go wrong with your vehicle. It also monitors your driving style and provides a score out of 100, which you can use to lower the cost of your insurance.

Although the video shows the app being used on an iPhone, DASH is currently only available on the Android platform. Plans for an iOS version are already underway.

Popular Choice Grand Prize ($17,000): MyCarma - Personal Fuel Economy Label

MyCarma's philosophy for improving fuel efficiency is simple: the quickest way to save money at the pump is to spend money on a newer, more efficient ride. The problem with the current process of buying a new car is that the EPA fuel economy estimates shown on the window sticker aren't tailored to your particular driving style, making it nearly impossible to determine the exact fuel savings you'll enjoy by upgrading to a greener car.

MyCarma removes the guesswork by logging driving data for seven days in your current car. After the data has been compiled, you select the top three vehicles on your consideration list and MyCarma creates a personalized fuel economy sticker for each of these cars, based on your drive cycle.

One key feature of this app is that it detects and logs the drive cycles automatically, so the consumer doesn't have to worry about starting and stopping the app before driving.

Honorable Mention for Safety Innovation: Green Button Gamer: Driver Challenge

Playing a game on your phone while driving seems like an incredibly unsafe thing to do. But with Green Button Gamer's Driver Challenge, users can compete with friends, and against themselves, in a number of safe driving challenges. The app works in real time, displaying both speed and location. If you exit the app while driving--to answer a text, for example--you automatically lose the game. As if you needed another incentive to drive safely, you can up the ante by betting $ 1 per challenge.

Honorable Mention for Fuel Efficiency Innovation: Fuel Economy Coach

In order to improve bad habits behind the wheel, drivers must first identify the behaviors that cost them precious MPGs. Fuel Economy Coach tracks the user's driving habits and provides feedback while driving in the form of easy to see icons: red for poor, yellow for mediocre and green for efficient. Once the drive is over, Fuel Economy Coach gives the user more precise instructions on what habits to change in order to become a better driver, improve fuel efficiency, and save themselves money.

The apps created for the Apps for Vehicles Challenged are all available for download, primarily on the Android platform, with iOS and Blackberry versions of some apps still in development.

Share This Photo X