While many might agree eco-driving is an honorable endeavor, few people actually practice the concept, and cutting edge research seems to trail racier fields such as alternative energy or nanotechnology.

However, a new 3-year, €13 million ($16 million) European Union project focused on developing integrated software and technology-based systems aims to bring eco-driving – the practice of conserving as much fuel as possible – to the forefront.

Called eCoMove, the program involves researchers from Ford Motor Co., Fiat Automobiles SpA, Volvo Car Corp. and others who will zero in on ways to link information stored onboard a vehicle about the owner’s driving habits and destination with external data about the weather, traffic patterns and traffic-signal phasing.

The ultimate goal is to educate and coach drivers to pilot their vehicles in the most fuel-efficient manner, improving their driving skills while helping them pick optimum routes.

“In reality today, vehicles, drivers and traffic management systems fall short of this ideal and much fuel is wasted leading to unnecessary (carbon-dioxide) emissions,” says project coordinator Jean Charles Pandazis, who comes to the program from European intelligent transport systems group Ertico.

Road transport generates 70% of all transport greenhouse-gas emissions, which are about 20% of all global emissions.

Complementary intelligent transport tools being developed by the project include:

  • A virtual coach that provides advice to motorists on how to consume less fuel, including personalized recommendations based on driving patterns.
  • Dynamic eco-pre-trip planning and real-time journey green routing tools selecting the lowest energy route.
  • Special local vehicle-control systems that integrate driving with traffic controls, helping motorists dodge red lights.

“When combined, these mainly independent but interacting applications can potentially deliver up to 20% overall fuel savings and CO2 emissions reduction,” Ertico says.

As for privacy issues, the group promises the detailed driver behavior data stored and analyzed within a vehicle would not be linked to that motorist’s personal data.