Thursday, November 13, 2008

Educating Through Interaction Design To Save The Planet


(See video at end of post)

Reducing C02 emissions in the fight global warming is a battle to be fought on many fronts. The more varied efforts employed the better. Other than the design of energy efficient cars and research into alternative eco-friendly fuels there are additional ways to reduce our individual CO2 footprints. One of the easiest and most immediate is simply to drive better. Applying a few changes to the way we drive can bring about significant reductions in fuel consumption. However educating people to drive better seems a boring and thankless task.

However, designers at Ford have proposed an interesting solution to this issue. In addition to all the standard driving information we are used to, such as speed, revs and engine temperature, their new high definition digital dashboard screen also displays a plant to the right of the screen. The plants health depends on the quality of the driving. The more fuel efficient a driving style, the more leaves the plant will grow.

The use of a plant is an emotive visual metaphor. Drivers with a forest growing on their dashboard will sleep sounder in the knowledge that they are getting the most out of the fuel they burn and that they have at least had less impact on the environment due to their actions.

Perhaps even more effective is the way it adds a kind of gameplay to driving. With ever more of us likely to have been brought up on a diet of computer games, this kind of solution appeals to our more competitive nature, and may just motivate drivers with a small shoot lacking in leaves to see if they can grow a better plant. Eventually the idea could be developed into a real game, where families with multiple drivers compete against each other to grow the best plants, or even a networked community of cars competing with each other, offering prizes to the most efficient drivers.

The digital gauge tackles the problem directly at it's source, in the moment when people are actually driving, and able to make a difference, and will be far more effective than other means of educating drivers on fuel efficient driving. With the rise in fuel costs many people are probably eager to have such useful fuel saving advice in order to save some money as well as the planet. By taking the advice of the in car computer you could save $1,000's over the lifetime of the car.