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MPG confusing? Ford holds a contest for app developers to help.

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Mike Segar/Reuters

(Read caption) A Ford logo is seen on a car during a press preview at the 2013 New York International Auto Show in New York. Ford is offerering cash prizes to app developers who can make sense of the wide array of information on fuel-efficient cars.

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Life can be confusing for those motivated into greener cars with the aim of saving money.

With all the options available to today's buyers--more efficient gasoline, diesel, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars, biofuels and more--it's hard to know what is really best. Throw in the multitude of fuel efficiency claims, electric range and more, and, well, it gets pretty tough to understand.

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That's why, says Earth Techling, Ford is offering prizes of $50,000 to software developers to come up with a smartphone app that helps people make sense of the barrage of information.

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The Personalized Fuel Efficiency Apps Challenge asks software developers to design something that helps consumers better understand and improve their personal fuel efficiency. The service they provide will be highly personalized, taking into account the various factors that can see a car's fuel economy stray from official figures.

There's an element of irony in this of course, which is that Ford's recent Fusion and C-Max Hybrid models are particularly susceptible to driving style, resulting in many customers missing EPA numbers by a significant margin.

Using these as an example, one of the contest's successful apps might give consumers a better idea of how their driving style and typical use would impact upon fuel efficiency--perhaps leading to fewer disappointments.

Apps will be based on the OpenXC platform, an open-source platform developed by Ford for research applications. A software and hardware development kit gives developers access to a wide range of vehicle data. By using both real-time data from the car, and historical data, an app could offer a truly tailored service.

Interested parties can register with Ford via the contest's website, and submissions for apps open on April 24.