Feeling the force

So here’s an interesting idea – making the gas pedal push back when you get too close to the car in front or should shift for fuel economy:

Active pedal picture

Active Pedal from Continental AG

Full description here at Green Car Advisor.  They claim that when people can feel when it’s best to shift, they can improve mileage by 5 to 10%.

Even a small improvement like that easily justifies the extra cost of an active pedal. Say that this is an optimized diesel that gets 40 mpg and gets driven for 120K miles before getting junked. It’ll burn 3000 gallons of gas during its life. At $3 a gallon that’s $9000. A 5% saving is $450. If the car maker has a 50% margin on features (which is what everybody slaps on to their products), then they would buy the pedal for $225. For that much you can put an Atom processor and a camera into the thing.

I’ve driven cars with little lights that blink at the shift point, and they are pretty annoying.   Anything that flashes forces you to take your eyes off the road, and when it’s a flash that you intend to ignore anyway, it’s not long before you break out the black tape.  I could see that a tactile feedback loop like this could soon become unconscious, leaving you free to be irked by the news on the radio.

I wonder if something like this could be done with the steering wheel too.   That might be better for a lane departure warning than a buzzer.   You could even simulate  road feel while still having an active suspension.   You could feel what the road is like without actually getting bounced all over.    It’d be nice if cars just nudged you instead of beeping or flashing.

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