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Ford Launches Contest For Apps That Boost Fuel Economy

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Ford marketing honcho Jim Farley recently gave the keynote address at the 2013 New York Auto Show. While speaking about changes in the auto industry caused by shifts in demographics (e.g. Millennials) and mindsets (e.g. connectivity), he also announced a new app contest.

That contest -- dubbed the Personalized Fuel Efficiency App Challenge -- offers a cash prize to the software developer who creates the best new app for fuel efficiency. The winning app might live on smartphones, or it might exist solely on Ford infotainment systems. According to the official contest website:

Ford Motor Company is challenging software developers to create the best mobile or web-based apps that will help customers easily access their personal fuel-economy performance data. With this data, using on-road personalized experiences, customers can share, compare and learn how to optimize their fuel usage. Developers must use data via the OpenXC platform. Winners will receive $50,000.

Farley explained the rationale for the contest in his keynote speech:

We need to help customers understand the concept of personal fuel economy – based on their own individualized experiences – and give them tools to see, learn and act upon all the information available to know what to expect, how to improve, and even offer guidance in their shopping process.

WHY THIS, WHY NOW?

The timing of Ford's app challenge is curious for two reasons:

1. Ford is in the middle of a brouhaha concerning fuel economy ratings for its Fusion and C-Max hybrids. Ford says -- quite rightly, in fact -- that fuel economy varies more widely in hybrids than in conventional vehicles, thanks to hybrids' particularly sensitivity to weather, terrain, driving style, and other factors. Apps that draw attention to the ways in which such elements affect fuel efficiency might help prove Ford's point.

2. Whether or not Ford aims to do a little damage control with the Personalized Fuel Efficiency App Challenge, several apps already achieve the goals Ford has set out -- Automatic, for example, which we discussed just a couple of weeks ago. Hosting a competition is a great publicity move, but for Ford's purposes, wouldn't it be equally good, if not better, to collaborate with companies who are already bringing such apps to market?

Anyway, if you're a developer, and you're interested in taking a shot at Ford's $50,000 prize, you can register here beginning Wednesday, April 24.

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