A smarter gas pedal may help drivers save money at the pump

Bosch Says New Device Could Boost Fuel Economy By 7 Percent

For all the weight automakers are shedding on their vehicles, all the hybrid offerings they're putting on the road and all the cylinders they're removing from their engines, the push to improve fuel economy amid stricter government standards omits one key element from the equation – drivers.

Driving behavior can have as big an impact on gas mileage as the machinery. While the government has looked at automakers to do their part in weaning the nation from its oil dependency, nobody has told motorists its time lighten their lead foots.

Bosch developed a product to do just that. Engineers at the global automotive supplier have unveiled an "active" gas pedal that provides haptic feedback to drivers when they push too hard on the gas pedal and increase their fuel consumption at excessive rates. The signal comes right where it can make a difference – at a driver's foot. Bosch executives believe feedback could help drivers improve fuel economy by as much as 7 percent.

The pedal is networked with other automotive functions like the transmission to provide the indications, and it comes with the option of also letting them know when it's the best time to shift gear. "The pedal tells the driver when the economy and acceleration curves intersect," said Stefan Seiberth, president of Bosch's gasoline systems division.

On a car equipped with advanced safety features, the pedal might save a life as well as gas. Coupled with a camera that recognizes road signs, the gas pedal can deliver haptic feedback that warns drivers if they are approaching curves in the road at dangerous speeds. Linked to a navigation system, haptic warnings can alert drivers to traffic congestion ahead. For all functions, the signals drivers feel can vary in type and strength. In due time, Bosch says that drivers will have reflexive reactions to the vibrations.

It's too early to say when the active gas pedal will wind up on a production vehicle, and with gas prices so cheap, fewer drivers might be concerned about saving money at the pump. But with more information on their performance behind the wheel, they'll at least have better awareness of what their heavy-footed habits are costing them.

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