DriveGain launches with an iPhone app to make you drive more efficiently

EXCLUSIVE – DriveGain, a new startup that opens its doors today, aims to help users learn to drive more efficiently and, in doing so, save on their fuel consumption.

It’s founded by Simon East, an ex-Psion exec and former VP, Technology of Symbian who subsequently founded Cognima (ShoZu), and Dr. Phil Dixon, who has a background in racing car simulations and was a recent Vehicle Performance Engineer with the Renault Formula 1 team.

DriveGain’s first offering is an iPhone app of the same name that, unlike the plethora of sat-nav apps available for Apple’s smartphone, doesn’t bark out turn-by-turn directions but gives a range of visual and audio feedback on what changes are required by the driver to burn less fuel.

It works with any petrol or diesel car with a manual transmission and features a database of over 8,400 European and 8,500 North American cars to choose from. Support for cars with automatic transmissions is also planned soon.

The included verbal instructions given by the iPhone app range from general advice such as “try reducing your acceleration”, to specific gear changes. While on the visual side, DriveGain provides more detailed information including current speed, level of acceleration or braking and the effect this has on fuel consumption, a smoothness score, average fuel economy reading and other eco-related stats.

It generates this data based on four vehicle simulations that run in parallel 20 times a second, according to the company, utilising GPS and, presumably, the iPhone’s accelerometer. The technology has been 17 months in the making, and the simulation engine is modular, with an eye on porting it to other platforms.

On that note, the DriveGain iPhone app is available from the App Store for £3.99 ($6.99/€5.49) – it could pay for itself within two weeks of driving, apparently, based on an average fuel economy improvement of 15% – but, moving forward, licensing the underlying technology to third-parties is another revenue stream being actively explored. These would likely initially be sat-nav apps/companies already targeting the iPhone, though other mobile OSes or stand-alone PNDs are also an option.

And given East’s roots, he’s sure to have some great contacts at TomTom, which was founded and is run by many ex-Psion/Symbian folk. The company also plans to approach other car related companies, such as motoring organisations, petrol companies and tyre manufacturers.

DriveGain, which is located in Amersham, UK, is currently bootstrapped, which East says is a deliberate decision after his previous negative VC experience, presumably with ShoZu, which was sold to Critical Path in January of this year.