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Can an app predict gasoline prices?

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Toby Talbot/AP/File

(Read caption) A customer fills up at a gas pump in Montpelier, Vt., in this Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, file photo. Esurance said its new Fuelcaster app can predict changes in local gasoline prices.

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There's a new app out that claims to let users predict the future ... of gas prices.

Fuelcaster is a free online app from Esurance that estimates whether prices will rise or fall in a given area.

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A user simply enters his or her ZIP code, and Fuelcaster looks into its algorithmic crystal ball to see if prices will rise or fall the next day.

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Fuelcaster has also partnered with GasBuddy to provide data on the cheapest gas in the neighborhood, listing the prices of the nearest gas stations.

How does it do it?

The app's website states that it uses data gathered from gas stations around the country, and "pricing signals" to determine whether a driver should buy fuel or hold off, although the exact methodology is kept secret.

Fuelcaster claims an accuracy rate of 80 to 90 percent, which would make it a fairly reliable tool for drivers looking for the cheapest gasoline--assuming that performance can be replicated in the real world.

With spring approaching, drivers could probably use a little clairvoyance.

Gas stations and refineries prepare to switch over to "summer blend" gasoline on May 1, meaning supplies can get squeezed as production of "regular" blend gas winds down in preparation.

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The reverse happens before the switch back to the "regular" blend, which happens September 15.

This obviously isn't an issue for electric-car owners, of course, but apps can be useful for them too.

Apps can already help drivers locate charging stations, and could potentially show them just how much money they're saving by foregoing the pump altogether.


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