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My Alternate Interface to the Canadian Fuel Consumption Guide – Updated for 2012

Published on 2012-03-23 by in Fuel Consumption

Last year I created an application that utilizes the Canadian Fuel Consumption Guide data.

I was looking for an easier to use interface to compare vehicles.

Finally, the 2012 Fuel Consumption Guide data was made available, so I’ve updated the application to reflect this.

Try it out!

You can try out the demo yourself by clicking here.  Be sure to share this link with your friends.

More information

Read my previous blog post: My Alternate Interface to the Canadian Fuel Consumption Guide

For more information on the Fuel Consumption Guide, check out the following links:

 
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From Data to Applications

A great article was featured in today’s Telegraph-Journal on the topic of Open Data – including mentions of the T4G hosted ‘Hackathon’ event in Fredericton this Saturday!

I also got a few quotes for Propertize.ca and the Canadian Fuel Consumption Guide Application that I am also working on.

Read on for more information:

The City of Fredericton has increased public access to government data by joining the open data movement that is sweeping the country.

Open data sites have been created in major centres across Canada and now Fredericton has recently launched its own open data site where users, such as software developers, can access information, collected by the municipality, to create interesting, new applications for the Web and smartphones.

“We’re trying to encourage local developers to develop new technologies, making it freely available without any restrictions,” said Rob Lunn, co-ordinator of Geographic Information Systems for the City of Fredericton. “It’s about being transparent and offering new services … the information we are putting out, the public has already paid for it.”

Shawn Peterson, a local IT consultant, started to develop open data applications after struggling to manoeuvre through a provincial tax information database.

“If you’ve been on the government site for tax assessment, you’ll probably find that it is really complicated,” Peterson said. “Using the data out there already, I built my own application that does a lot of the leg work for you.”

After his web-based application, propertize.ca, experienced some heavy traffic, Peterson said, Service New Brunswick started sending people to his site instead of recommending the government database.

He is currently working on an application that involves vehicle fuel consumption data.

Saturday is International Open Data Day and Fredericton is one of approximately 40 cities around the world that will participate in an event titled Hackathon, a forum that encourages entrepreneurs, government officials and academics to join forces and discuss new ways to use open data.

T4G, a technology solutions organization with offices across North American, including Fredericton and Saint John, will host the event at its Fredericton office from noon until 4 p.m.

The purpose of Hackathon is to raise awareness about open data and explore how government officials can contribute and improve public services at the same time.

It can be “something as simple as garbage collection,” said Patrick Lacroix, T4G’s managing director of leadership and productivity improvement.

“If the City of Fredericton or the City of Saint John had a map for the garbage collection services and the schedule, then somebody could develop an app for your own computer or smartphone. You could get a warning the night before saying ‘Don’t forget to put out your garbage. It’s Thursday night.'”

While the goal of transparency and easy access to information is well-intentioned, some experts say open data may inadvertently reveal sensitive information.

“The dark side of this is … you didn’t intend to publish something that exposes a vulnerability, but you did. You can publish one set of data and another set of data in two different places, but when people cross-reference them, you get an insight that helps shut down the U.S. electrical grid (for example),” said Robert Austin, dean of business administration at the University of New Brunswick. Austin co-authored a case study called ‘data.gov’ which outlines the complexity of open data policies within the United States government.

“There are pretty profound philosophical differences that come up when you start talking about open data in government. A lot of it has to do with how much you trust the right thing to happen when the data comes to bear.”

Austin says he believes that ultimately open data is a good thing but freedom of information isn’t so cut and dry.

“If you’re going to do it the way the U.S. government has, you have to be OK with people taking your data, spinning it in a way that is convenient to them, and using it against you,” he said.

Lunn said that the city is cautious about what data is released and it would be unlikely any harm could come from it.

“There is always the negative side to these things. Our feeling is that there are going to be more benefits that are derived,” Lunn said.

“There is power in making your data available and people can grab it and come up with some very interesting uses.”

For anyone interesting in attending the T4G hosted event, below are links to data sets that I am interested in working with:

 
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My Alternate Interface to the Canadian Fuel Consumption Guide

The Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) compiles and publishes estimated fuel-consumption ratings for passenger cars, light-duty pickup trucks, vans, and special purpose vehicles sold in Canada in it’s annual Fuel Consumption Guide.

Never heard of them?  Well, I bet you have seen their numbers when looking at new vehicles (displayed in the window sticker):

While some people will disagree on the accuracy of estimating fuel consumption data (especially when it comes to comparing the estimates to real world usage) – there is a still great deal of useful data to work with – especially when it comes to comparing vehicles to each other.

The issue for me, however, is the same one I faced when trying to view Property Tax Assessment information in New Brunswick – the website used to view this data is very frustrating to use.

Viewing the Fuel Consumption Guide Data Online

OEE provides two links that anyone can use to work with their data:

  1. Viewing a list of vehicles for a specific manufacturer (by a specific vehicle type for a specific year)
  2. Comparing vehicles (by year, vehicle type, manufacturer, and model)

Interface Issues

I find both of the provided forms tedius to use to quickly get data for comparison purposes.  Also, don’t even think about pressing the back button to change a previously selected option, it will simply force you to start over from the beginning.

The results are equally disappointing – a static table that can not be manipulated (no sorting) and very difficult to read.

Honestly, how many people would know a Class of P is a “Special Purpose Vehicle“, X is “Regular fuel”, and V is an “Automatic“?

Luckily, the Fuel Consumption data is actually available in PDF and HTML format for each year (they only show 2011 and 2010 inside the link below; but, you can change the year inside the URL to view other years):

My Alternate Interface

Before I could work on an interface, I first needed data.

Using the HTML versions above, I created an Excel spreadsheet (with a tab for each year).  I then pasted in the HTML data (a very tedious process) into each tab:

I then wrote an adapter that reads the Excel spreadsheet and populates a database.

Like all government data I have ever worked with, I quickly found that the format (and those funny codes I mentioned above) change from year to year for no clear reason.  This adapter then had to be updated a great deal to read the data and populate the database in a consistent format:

Once this was completed, it was easy to stub out a ASP.NET MVC3 application that reads the data and puts it into a nice grid that clearly states what the data means.

I’ve also updated it to allow for more advanced filtering and sorting – something that can easily be done from the same screen (and the back button works too)!

Try the demo!

You can try out the demo yourself by clicking here.  Be sure to share this link with your friends.

Ideas Going Forward

While the application is generally functional, I think there is still a great deal that can still be done!

One idea was to factor in more “realistic consumption numbers” – perhaps adding 2-3 L/100KM to each number, and allowing users to enter the price of gas in their area to generate more realistic “cost per year” numbers.

Another idea was to introduce some graphs to make things more visually appealing.  I think some comparisons between manufacturers/vehicle types would be an interesting way to introduce this.

Maybe there is more open data available that could be integrated with this as well – be sure to let me know if you have ideas on this!

I’d also like to make the “Model” field into a listbox as well – to make it easier to filter the results by a list of models (opposed to limiting to specific text as exists now).

The application is also built to be localized – I just need to take some time to do it.

Add your feedback

Please comment below with your feedback (good or bad) along with any ideas or suggestions for improvement!

Additional Information

For more information on the Fuel Consumption Guide, check out the following links:

 
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