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updated 3/24/2011 3:18:04 PM ET 2011-03-24T19:18:04

 

Just when it started to feel safe to begin spending again, consumers are getting hit with rising gas prices. Fuel prices have reached the $4 mark in California and the rest of the country is not far behind. While no strategy short of walking or biking can completely counteract rising fuel costs, new features in GPS devices, smartphone apps and purpose-built devices can help.

Eco-route plotting GPS

Many newer GPS devices offer the ability for drivers to calculate the most efficient routes. Fewer hills and curves, fewer stoplights and lighter traffic can all translate into fuel savings.

Garmin offers its ecoRoute HD, which runs on compatible Garmin nüvi GPS devices, starting at around $120. When choosing your route, you can select "less fuel" over "faster time" or "shorter distance." If you already own a Garmin nüvi, ecoRoute can be downloaded for free from Garmin.

Ford has added a fuel saving route feature to some of its 2011 vehicles equipped with MyFord Touch, an in-dash entertainment and GPS device. Ford estimates that its new Eco-Route can reduce gas consumption by as much as 15 percent.

Gas-saving apps

There's no shortage of apps in the various app stores for smartphones that help you pay less at the pump. One example is the 99-cent iGasUp. Launch the app on an iPhone or iPad and the 10 cheapest gas stations closest to your current location will be listed.

Poynt is available for free on the iPhone as well as Android, BlackBerry and Windows 7 phones. Last month, the company added a gas widget to its location-based business, people, restaurant and movie listings. Poynt can display the nine cheapest nearby gas stations.

Don't have a smartphone? You can still find the best local gas prices. Try m.gasbuddy.com on your phone's browser.

Make gas-saving a game

Launched at the height of the gas crisis in 2008, a device called the Kiwi aims to modify driver behavior to save on fuel consumption. The device plugs into the existing on-board diagnostic port, usually found on the steering column of vehicles built after 1996. The driver's daily goal is to obtain the highest Kiwi score possible derived from the vehicle's diagnostics and based on acceleration, deceleration, speed and the number of abrupt stops.

Kiwi includes 20 driving lessons and a “Fun Mode” that uses animations rather than charts to provide driver feedback. For example, the greener you drive, the more a flower will bloom on the device’s display.

While our use of technology may have helped get us into this fuel mess in the first place, it also can offer us ways to get out, and in the meantime ease the unavoidable costs of basic transportation.

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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