As more and more states are cracking down on the use of mobile devices behind the wheel, and as on-board GPS systems become standard amenities in our cars, it shouldn't come as a surprise that automakers are finding new ways to use the map data technology driving those devices. One such new use comes from BMW, and will be featured in their ActiveHybrid 3 series vehicles.
Specifically, the mapping system in the upcoming ActiveHybrid 3 will include the ability to profile the terrain (especially hills and grades) and track the direction the car is heading. By using this information, the on-board GPS can do it's normal job of displaying a route, but it can also determine the most effective time to charge the batteries.
Here's how it works: The navigational system knows that the route you're taking will involve climbing uphill for a while, before going downhill. Your car will allow you to use more of your battery power (instead of burning gasoline) during the climb, knowing it will be able to recharge while you descend.
ActiveHybrid 3 series vehicles will go on sale this fall. It's expected that highway fuel efficiency will be about 37 mpg before any navigation enhancements.