If Ford's MyFord Touch and the Chevy Volt's digital instrument cluster are any indicator, future vehicle instrumentation may be much more complex than the handful of analog gauges to which we're all accustomed.
Judging from the ideas of high school students tasked with designing conceptual dashboards that encourage green practices, teenagers may have a hand in shaping that future dash.
Their suggestions include an in-dash avatar that coaches drivers toward efficiency, a smart navigation system that tells you when it's better to skip the car and take public transportion, and a Web-connected dash that rewards the thrifty driver with "green points" redeemable for discounts at participating retailers.
The three teams behind those ideas--Dash Tech of Dearborn, Mich.; EDV Technologies of Santa Barbara, Calif.; and Harker Innovation Team of San Jose, Calif.--are semi-finalists in a contest called DASH+ (part of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize Education Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy).
Students from around the country submitted ideas for instrument panels designed to maximize fuel efficiency by encouraging drivers to drive with a green foot. The concepts feature touch sensitivity, haptic feedback, and a good deal of user customization.
"It was great to see so many students jump at the opportunity to take the skills they have acquired in class and apply them in this challenge to change the future of transportation," said Mitch Aiken, director of education for the Progressive Insurance Automotive X-Prize.
Members of the winning team will spend the summer in Detroit, pitching their dashboard design to representatives from the automotive industry and rubbing elbows with the teams competing in the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE.
Online voting will take place on the DASH+ contest Web site, where the public can view the semi-finalists' submissions and vote once a day until voting closes on May 31.