Bosch Haptic Pedal Can Save You 7 Percent on Gas

A gas pedal that communicates with you through vibration offers improved safety, fuel economy, and foot massages

2 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Bosch Haptic Pedal Can Save You 7 Percent on Gas
Illustration: iStockphoto

It's very likely that the most significant detriment to your car's fuel economy is you, the driver. Consistently poor driving habits (like hard acceleration) can be responsible for up to 25 percent of overall fuel consumption. There are some straightforward ways to drive economically (like not treating every green light like the signal for the start of a drag race), but there's a limit to how much you can realistically accomplish, especially because cars themselves are becoming much more complicated.

The good news is that your car is much better at driving than you are. The bad news: It isn't quite good enough that it can do everything for you. Bosch has developed an intelligent haptic gas pedal that can help your car intuitively communicate with you about when to accelerate and when to brake in order to maximize fuel efficiency. These helpful hints could reduce your fuel consumption by up to 7 percent while also making you drive more safely. 

Bosch's haptic gas pedal prototype does the same sorts of things that your cell phone probably does in your hand, except underneath your foot. The pedal can vibrate in several different ways to communicate different messages; it can also adjust its resistance to being pressed. It decides what to communicate based on information received from your car's engine, its batteries, sensors around the car, the GPS, and even the cloud. Here are some examples of how all of this stuff comes together to make you a better driver:

  • Pedal begins to pulse when you're reaching an optimal shift point (does anybody in the U.S. remember being able to shift by hand in a regular car?)
  • Pedal vibrates when you exceed the recommended speed, prompting you to ease off a bit
  • Pedal provides counter pressure when the car has an opportunity to coast, or (if you have a hybrid) when the gasoline engine is close to having to take over from the batteries
  • Pedal vibrates sharply if the GPS (or a camera that can read road signs) notices that you're approaching a bend at too high a rate of speed, or if there's a traffic alert ahead

A lot of this information could also be communicated through the dashboard, or a head-up display. But by using the gas pedal, you don't have to take your focus off the road ahead. Also, Bosch says that by delivering these signals directly to the thing that should be reacting to them (your foot), adapting your driving to the car's suggestions becomes almost a reflex, and you eventually don't really have to think about it anymore.

For some people, this is going to come off as a bit too intrusive, but the level of intervention would all be adjustable through software. Maybe you only care about safety alerts, and don't want the car to complain when you floor it to show that other car over there how much better you are than them, because that's really the most important part about driving, after all.

Bosch isn't a car manufacturer, so it's not like we can predict that these pedals will be showing up in some particular make or model of car. Bosch does, however, produce a staggering amount of the stuff that's probably in your car already (like double digit percentage staggering), so it’s a good bet that we could see haptic gas pedals with this level of intelligence somewhere—or even everywhere all at once—sometime soon. Maybe. Ish.

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