How can one drive and protect the environment at the same time? It's an important question, and one that weighs on the minds of Europeans a lot. In an effort to help consumers, the EU is backing a key project that is investigating how ecological issues in traffic are becoming increasingly pressing as personal transportation is one of the biggest contributors of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The ECONAV ('Ecological aware navigation: usable persuasive trip advisor for reducing CO2 consumption') project is backed with more than EUR 2.3 million under the 'Information and communication technologies' (ICT) Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Researchers led by the Center for Usability Research and Engineering (CURE) in Austria are developing a new mobile phone application (app) that will inform you of a variety of situations, such as if your driving technique is bad or if you're a worse driver than your peers. You will receive a report card at the end of the week telling you where you went wrong. The app is also being designed to motivate you to pursue eco-friendly travels.
The ECONAV consortium is made up of researchers and businesspeople from Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands and Switzerland. They will help bring the app to market.
Professor Brian Caulfield of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, a member of the ECONAV team, says the app will provide directions like any satellite navigation (satnav) system, but it will also help the user make the right choice in environmental terms. Information will be integrated into the system, featuring various forms of data like a city's transport options. The system will also be able to inform users of alternatives to driving, helping them choose to keep their car at home.
'It will tell you what the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective modes are and will rank them,' Professor Caulfield says. Users will not even have to input their choice into the system because the app is linked into geopositioning satellites.
So assuming you make a bad decision, such as taking the car over the train or bus, the app will 'scold', advising you about how much money you wasted on fuel. It will also criticise you for expanding your carbon footprint.
The ECONAV team says the app will link into social media channels and compare how one user performs against another. The partners plan to test the system by December of this year, starting in the Austrian capital of Vienna. More trials are expected in Dublin as well.
The ECONAV consortium marries expertise from navigation systems, transportation sciences, environmental modelling, artificial intelligence, persuasive technology, human-computer interaction to software development to make this project a success.