Driving behavior

Fusing smart tech for an eco-saving ride.


  • Client
  • Industry
  • Services
    Customer Research, Human Factors

Can design influence driving behavior? And can a smarter dashboard drive vehicle sales? The answer is yes, in the case of our collaboration with Ford for their Fusion hybrid cars. Smart researched, designed and prototyped a completely new instrument panel—the SmartGauge with EcoGuide—that empowers hybrid drivers to make smarter decisions about their gas mileage. EcoGuide is such a unique feature that Ford actually patented it.

The Ford Fusion ended up crushing sales and wining several awards in its first year, including 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year. Ford continues to apply the SmartGauge with EcoGuide to other Ford hybrid models so even more drivers can take control of their fuel efficiency.

The purpose-driven fuel saver.

The SmartGauge with EcoGuide is a game-changing instrument panel that helps drivers get better fuel efficiency by acting like a personal coach. Features include:

  • A high-resolution, rich-color LCD screen with non-distracting animation to show fuel savings
  • Customized, real-time feedback about driver habits including fuel and battery power levels and average miles-per-gallon
  • Strategic use of color and contrast help reduce glance time
Leaves grown more green and lush as the driver achieves better fuel economy.

One good thing leads to another.

Building on an initial range of ideas generated with the Ford team and IDEO, Smart set out to create a dashboard experience that not only optimized fuel efficiency but empowered motorists with real-time feedback about their driving habits. This included looking at different in-use situations to create meaningful reminders at every stage of a driver’s journey. Creating an instant feedback loop solved one of the main challenges with hybrid driving—the fact that frustrated owners don’t understand why they’re not hitting their promised mileage targets.

A glaring difference.

Smart approached the LCD screen as an opportunity to reduce glance time—not typically achievable with mechanical gauges. Strategic use of color and contrast requires less attention from your peripheral vision.

Building something green and lean.

Design research and rapid prototyping proved critical to the development of the SmartGauge. The team observed dozens of consumers in their homes, cars and communities to gain insight into how people measured efficiency in different areas of their lives.

SmartGauge with EcoGuide boosted sales by 46 percent and helped the car win 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year and 2010 North American Car of the Year.

Picking up speed.

In its first year, the Ford Fusion was credited with boosting the carmaker’s sales by 46%, delivering an impressive 82 percent in the all-important metric of “conquest sales.” The car went on to win 2010 Motor Trend Car of the Year and 2010 North American Car of the Year. Today the SmartGauge with EcoGuide helps even more drivers increase their mileage now that it’s been applied to other Ford hybrid and electric cars, including the Lincoln, C-Max and Focus.

Dan Formosa explains Smart Design's approach to the SmartGauge.

Finalist, 2009 IDEA competition, IDSA/BusinessWeek
2010 Outstanding Achievement, HOW Interactive Design Awards
“Best in Category for Disruption”, 2012 IxDA Awards