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How far can you drive after the gas-tank warning light goes on?

The answer may be surprising to some

By Paul McNamara on Fri, 06/22/07 - 1:38pm.

Now there's a question that can drive a driver around the bend. In fact, it has dogged motorists ever since Henry Ford first uttered those immortal words - "Hey, guys, this thing needs a gas-tank warning light" - and even inspired a memorable Seinfeld episode called "The Dealership."

(2012's 25 Geekiest 25th Anniversaries)

Most of us muddle through life not knowing the answer to the question - not daring to find out the hard way - and living in mortal fear that we're letting the needle slide too close to its final resting place.

Not Justin Davis, though: He's no muddler; he's a seeker of knowledge.

Which brings us to www.tankonempty.com, a so-called crowdsourcing site launched by Davis just last night. From the site's "about" page:

During a road trip from Michigan to New York, the gas light went on and we wondered how far we could go before stopping. Since there wasn't a way to find out without calling AAA, we decided to let some Internet collaboration help out. If enough people vote, we can get a better idea of how far you can go once your gas light goes on.

After thinking this over, we realized there must be some great stories out there about people on car trips or just about their car in general. Why not have a place to share these stories with other people too? So if you've got a great story about a road trip, or a just an entertaining story about driving, share it with us and the community.

A series of drop-down menus let you find the data collection page for your vehicle, at which point you're asked for the maximum mileage you've pushed things after the light goes on. You don't have to have risked being stranded to participate and mileage estimates are OK.

The site will tally up all the mileage entries and spit out an average, maximum and standard deviation for each make and model. There isn't much data yet, of course, since the site just launched. Your contributions would be appreciated.

A 24-year-old freelance Web developer working at a startup, Davis lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. and tells me in an e-mail exchange that he's been tinkering with TankOnEmpty "for a couple weeks on and off."

I mentioned to him I that I couldn't help noticing from the anecdote he tells about the idea's origin that he has yet to really test his own car's outer limits.

His reply: "Hmm, that's a good point. Part of the reason is that it would really only answer the question for my car. With the collaboration of users, we can get a better idea about how far all cars go. The other part of the reason is that I had no audience until last night, so if enough people add their 2 cents it will make sense."

Suddenly I can't wait for the next time my gas-tank light comes on. Can't promise a full-tilt Kramer, because I'm just not that kind of guy, but I do intend to suck up some fumes.

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