Virtual Vehicle Company, a startup that was one of the 100 finalists showing their technology at the Cleantech Open Conference on Thursday, is the first company that I’ve seen that truly uses the latest cell phone innovations to unlock useful data about greener transportation. Developed at UC Berkeley, VEVCo has developed a mobile application for smart phones that can track a user’s driving behavior using inputs like the embedded GPS and largely without the driver having to manually input any information.
As co-founder Laura Schewel told me at the event, it was only when Google and Apple launched their mobile operating systems that VEVCo was able to make an app that was inexpensive and could pull driver information unobtrusively. By using the GPS chip, the app can tell when the driver has started driving, when they stop, how fast or slow they drive, their daily average range, and the common length of the trips they take, among other things. While Schewel said she’s seen other companies spend millions of dollars trying to get that type of driving data, their app cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range to build.
That type of driving information, repackaged in various ways, could also be very valuable to a variety of industries from automakers, auto dealers and auto insurance companies to advertisers and web firms. The first market that VEVCo is targeting will be automotive marketing and VEVCo has developed the Virtual Test Drive app and website that uses driving information to educate and recommend what type of green car a consumer should (or could) buy or lease from a plug-in hybrid, to an all-electric, to a flex-fuel to a cleaner diesel car.