Existing sensor signals for driver-assist systems can be combined in new ways to estimate workload on the driver based on traffic and road conditions
Ford researchers also are using biometric feedback through sensors in the steering wheel, seat and seat belt to provide a more complete model of driver stress levels
Driver workload estimation can be used to manage in-vehicle communications by helping minimize driver distractions during hectic conditions
DEARBORN, Mich., June 27, 2012 – With today’s ever-increasing concern about driver distraction, engineers in the Ford Research and Innovation labs are developing ways to help the driver stay focused in busy situations by intelligently managing incoming communications.
“Ford has been a leader in delivering solutions for in-car communications and simplifying the user interface, and now we’re researching ways to use the car’s own intelligence to further help drivers,” says Jeff Greenberg, senior technical leader of Ford Research and Innovation. “Vehicle control inputs, sensors, road conditions and biometric information such as a driver’s pulse and breathing can all be used to create a driver workload estimation that can then help manage certain functions in demanding situations.”
Data from the sensing systems of driver-assist technologies can be used to determine the amount of external demand and workload upon a driver at any given time including traffic and road conditions. In addition, Ford continues its health and wellness research with the development of a biometric seat, seat belt and steering wheel that can monitor the condition of the driver to help add an even more specific estimate of the driver’s state of being.
The driver workload estimator is an algorithm using real-time data from existing sensors such as radar and cameras combined with input from the driver’s use of the throttle, brakes and steering wheel. The result is an intelligent system enabling management of in-vehicle communications based on the assessed workload of the driving situation.
For example, the side-looking radar sensors used for the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS®) and the forward-looking camera for the Lane-Keeping System are on watch even when there is no active warning provided to the driver. These signals could indicate there is a significant amount of traffic in the lane that you are merging into while entering a highway.
Combine that knowledge with the fact that the driver has increased throttle pedal pressure to speed up, and the workload estimate could be high enough to determine it isn’t a very good time for an incoming phone call to ring inside the cabin.
The car could intelligently apply the “Do Not Disturb” feature that is already available as part of MyFord® Touch, helping the driver stay focused on the road during the high-demand situation.
Monitoring driver biometrics
“In addition to using existing vehicle data to estimate demand on the driver, we’re researching ways to get an even better understanding of the stress level of the driver,” says Gary Strumolo, manager of vehicle design and infotronics, Ford Research and Innovation. “Biometric or health information of the driver can help us better tailor the experience when behind the wheel.”
Turning new biometric sensors toward the driver will help to create a more complete picture of the driver workload. The research team has built a biometric seating buck to test a number of different sensors and gather data on how drivers respond to a variety of inputs for a driver behavior model.
The experimental system adds several sensors to the steering wheel rim and spokes to get more detailed driverinformation. Anyone who has used modern exercise equipment like treadmills and stair climbers will be familiar with the metal pads on the rim that can be used to measure the driver’s heart rate.
Infrared sensors on the steering wheel monitor the palms of a driver’s hands as well as his or her face looking for changes in temperature. A downward-looking infrared sensor under the steering column measures the cabin temperature to provide a baseline for comparing changes in the driver’s temperature. The final sensor is embedded in the seat belt to assess the driver’s breathing rate.
With a more complete picture of the driver’s health and wellness blended with knowledge of what is happening outside the vehicle, the car will have the intelligence to dynamically adjust the alerts provided to the driver and filter interruptions. With the driver occupied in heavy traffic, the vehicle control system could increase the warning times for forward collision alerts and automatically filter out phone calls and messages, allowing the driver more time to respond. On the other hand, an alert driver on an open highway could receive incoming calls.
“While these features are still in research, they show significant opportunity for us to leverage data already being captured by the vehicle and apply an intelligent decision-making system to simplify the driving experience,” adds Strumolo.
Ford launches all-new Fusion with breakthrough transmedia marketing program, “Random Acts of Fusion,” aimed at introducing the new car to millions before it hits showrooms this fall
TV and radio host and producer Ryan Seacrest teams up with Ford, guiding consumers through the interactive journey to launch Random Acts of Fusion, helping them participate through his multimedia platforms
DEARBORN, Mich., June 26, 2012 – Ford announces a new social consumer program for the highly anticipated all-new Ford Fusion that aims to shatter the bounds of immersive entertainment with “Random Acts of Fusion.” The unique transmedia marketing initiative promises to be as groundbreaking as the all-new Ford Fusion – a vehicle poised to dramatically change the face of the midsize car segment, delivering an entertaining and experiential introduction for the new sedan.
“We are taking a completely unique approach to introduce the new Fusion with a transmedia program, launching this transformational vehicle that over-delivers with its distinctive blend of style, intelligence and technology,” said Jim Farley, Ford group vice president, Marketing, Sales & Service. “Combining social media, entertainment and unexpected consumer experiences will allow us to connect with audiences through every type of media, making Fusion’s profile larger than ever.”
Random Acts of Fusion will star a number of personalities from consumers to celebrities – including Emmy Award-winning TV and radio host and producer Ryan Seacrest – as the program crisscrosses the country introducing the all-new Fusion to millions.
“It’s a privilege to partner with such a stellar multinational brand as Ford,” said Seacrest. “I’m excited to help Ford bring the Fusion to life through what I believe is going to be a very entertaining and surprising interactive consumer initiative.”
This unique initiative builds further on the success of out-of-the-box thinking that led to trailblazing Ford social consumer programs such as the Fiesta Movement and Escape Routes. Using transmedia storytelling, Ford will reach out to consumers with the new Fusion every day.
Unlike any other program before, Random Acts of Fusion will play out over time through a story arc across a variety of media channels that will be driven by digital and experiential while also including radio, broadcast and social media.
Through this innovative approach, countless people will have an opportunity to take part in once-in-a-lifetime experiences with the Fusion before it even arrives in dealer showrooms.
As time goes on, people will better understand why the program is titled Random Acts of Fusion and how that relates to the car itself.
“Life is all about acts – big and small – and through Random Acts of Fusion, this vehicle and program will take real people to unexpected places,” says Crystal Worthem, manager, Ford Brand Content & Alliances. “Consumers will have to work together to unlock the story, and as the program evolves, will have a chance to see for themselves how Fusion is able to transform the lives of the people who drive it.”
Consumers can start to piece the puzzle together by visiting the Ford Fusion Facebook page,www.facebook.com/fordfusion, to find out more details this week.
Cross-platform storytelling pioneer 42 Entertainment in partnership with Team Detroit will play an integral role in developing Random Acts of Fusion. The program runs through the end of October.
The all-new 2013 Ford Fusion
With its sleek new design, the 2013 Ford Fusion brings alive the next generation of more expressive vehicles from Ford.
In addition to its fresh face, the all-new Fusion offers the broadest selection of fuel-efficient powertrains in the midsize car segment. It offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid alternatives, a pair of EcoBoost® four-cylinder engines, a normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive applications, and a choice between automatic and manually shifted six-speed transmissions.
On sale this fall, Fusion offers consumers seven must-have technologies, including a Lane-Keeping System, adaptive cruise control, active park assist and MyFord Touch®.
The new Fusion is the first vehicle from Ford’s new global CD platform. An all-new Mondeo for Europe and Asia will be introduced later this year and is scheduled to start arriving in dealerships next year. By 2015, more than 10 new products from this platform will account for approximately 1 million global vehicles each year.
Ford further grows customers’ power of choice, offering eight U.S. vehicles that deliver 40 mpg or more – double its number versus 2011 and more than any other full-line automaker
The company is tripling electrified vehicle production capacity by 2013, growing its range to six vehicles; all-new C-MAX Hybrid expected to achieve 47 mpg certification – at least 3 mpg better than Toyota Prius v with more performance and technology
Ford grows annual EcoBoost® production to nearly 1.6 million engines globally by 2013 – almost 100,000 engines above its original target; new Taurus with 2.0-liter EcoBoost is EPA-certified at best-in-class 32 mpg and Ford confirms 1.0-liter EcoBoost for U.S. small car next year
Ford further accelerates global platform consolidation plans, delivering the industry’s freshest full-line product portfolio in the U.S. this year and beyond; globally, Ford plans to have the youngest portfolio of passenger vehicles for the next five consecutive years
DEARBORN, Mich., June 26, 2012 – Ford is delivering more fuel-efficient vehicle choices in 2012 than ever before and a fresher new vehicle lineup than any full-line automaker in the U.S.
“Customers are starting to see the true benefits of our One Ford plan,” said Mark Fields, Ford president of The Americas. “With more new vehicle options and an even broader range of fuel-efficient cars, utilities and trucks, Ford is delivering real power of choice for millions of consumers who are paying more attention than ever to what happens at the pump – no matter what the price.”
Ford is offering eight vehicles that deliver 40 mpg or better by year-end – double its number versus 2011 and more than any other full-line automaker. In fact, Ford’s eight-vehicle tally is more than the number of 40-mpg-or-better vehicles Toyota and General Motors offer combined.
Ford also is tripling its electrified vehicle production capacity by 2013, growing its electrified vehicle lineup to six models – including the all-new C-MAX Hybrid. The compact hybrid utility vehicle, which arrives this fall, is expected to achieve 47 mpg, at least 3 mpg better than Toyota Prius v with more performance and technology.
Ford plans for 10 to 25 percent of its global sales to be electrified vehicles (hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electric vehicles) by 2020, and continues to find ways to make more affordable, high-volume, internal-combustion engines even more fuel efficient.
Ford has invested record amounts in its powertrains and new vehicles since launching its Blueprint for Sustainability. Since 2007, the company has improved fuel economy in its vehicles in all key segments, including:
Small cars: Focus has improved its highway fuel economy 21 percent between 2007 and the 2012 model’s 40 mpg
Midsize cars: The gas-engine-powered all-new Fusion is projected to be 28 percent more fuel efficient than its 2007 counterpart when it goes on sale this fall
Full-size cars: The new 2.0-liter EcoBoost® Taurus, now EPA-certified at 32 mpg highway, is 27 percent more fuel efficient than the 2007 Ford Five Hundred
Sports cars: Mustang maintains its unbeaten balance of power and fuel economy with a 24 percent fuel economy improvement
Utilities: The new EcoBoost-powered Escape delivers a 32 percent improvement in fuel economy compared to the previous V6 Escape, while Explorer has reinvented modern full-size SUVs, fueled largely by its 40-percent fuel economy improvement to 28 mpg highway for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost compared to the previous model’s V6
Trucks: F-150 improves 21 percent versus five years ago to 23 mpg city
Fuel-efficient EcoBoost powertrains are now a mainstay in Ford’s lineup. In fact, Ford’s annual EcoBoost production grows to nearly 1.6 million engines globally by 2013 – surpassing the company’s original target for that time frame.
A 1.0-liter EcoBoost – Ford’s smallest, quietest engine ever – arrives in one of Ford’s U.S. small cars next year. Already on sale in the European Focus, the 1.0-liter engine was named the 2012 International Engine of the Year this month.
Additional 1.6-, 2.0- and 3.5-liter EcoBoost engines are already available on Escape, Explorer, Edge, F-150, Flex, Focus ST, Fusion, Police Interceptor sedan and utility vehicles, and Taurus.
While EcoBoost offers up to a 15 percent reduction in CO2 versus larger-displacement, non-turbocharged engines, this technology can also save customers money on fuel. During a 7.5-year ownership period, for instance:
All-new Ford Escape 2.0-liter EcoBoost buyers could save $2,245, the equivalent of 6.1 months of fuel, compared to Toyota RAV4 V6
2013 Ford Taurus 3.5-liter EcoBoost buyers could save $2,090, the equivalent of 10 months of eating out for an average family, compared to the Chrysler 300C
All-new Ford Fusion 1.6-liter EcoBoost buyers could save $1,650, the equivalent of more than three months of groceries, compared to a Toyota Camry four-cylinder owner’s fuel use
“Whether you are talking about new technologies, engines or vehicles themselves, customers increasingly are looking for good value,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Global Product Development. “Customers are telling us Ford is delivering what they truly want – including the newest vehicles to choose from in America.”
Ford has the freshest new lineup of passenger and commercial vehicles in the U.S. industry – surpassing Honda, Toyota and Hyundai, according to the recent 2012 Bank of America Merrill Lynch “Car Wars” study.
This is just the beginning, Nair said. Globally, Ford plans to have the youngest portfolio of passenger vehicles for the next five consecutive years.
Ford’s move to truly global platforms enables the company to create more new models for customers more quickly.
In 2011, the company had 22 distinct vehicle platforms in use around the world. That number drops to 10 by 2017, ahead of One Ford plan goals. Five of these will be manufactured in at least more than one region.
By 2016, 80 percent of Ford’s planned 8 million vehicles will be based on the five global platforms.
“Even better new vehicles, faster – that is what we are committed to deliver for our customers,” Nair said.
Ford is developing Traffic Jam Assist, an intelligent driving feature that employs technology from the already-available active park assist, adaptive cruise control, Lane-Keeping Aid and the PowerShift transmission to enable a vehicle to automatically keep pace with other vehicles
Ford vehicles will evolve the current active park assist system – a Ford technology that enables parallel parking without touching the steering wheel – to offer hands-free perpendicular parking as well
Early prototypes of these technologies are designed to help reduce driver stress and traffic gridlock
DEARBORN, Mich., June 26, 2012 – Ford Motor Company is researching and developing intelligent, next-generation driving technologies designed to help address traffic jams and other future mobility challenges that come with rapid urbanization and population growth around the world.
Ford’s early prototypes of two such technologies – Traffic Jam Assist and an advanced version of active park assist, evolved to offer hands-free perpendicular parking – are designed to interact with a vehicle’s surroundings, reduce driver stress and help reduce traffic gridlock.
“Developing these technologies is part of the first step in a journey toward a more connected future,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and vice president, Research and Innovation. “It’s an undertaking we believe will save time, conserve resources, lower emissions, improve safety and help reduce driver stress.”
Traffic Jam Assist
Traffic Jam Assist is an intelligent driving technology that Ford is developing for the mid-term. It uses radar and camera technology to help a vehicle keep pace with other vehicles in traffic and provide automated steering control to stay in the current lane, reducing driver stress and potentially improving vehicle flow.
“Drivers spend more than 30 percent of their time in heavy traffic,” said Joseph Urhahne, engineer with Ford Research and Innovation. “Traffic Jam Assist could help make traveling through congestion a more relaxing experience and, by keeping pace with the flow of traffic, potentially help relieve road congestion.”
Individual simulation studies have found that where 25 percent of vehicles on a stretch of road are equipped to automatically follow the traffic ahead, journey times can be reduced by 37.5 percent and delays reduced by 20 percent – saving millions of gallons of fuel each year.
Traffic Jam Assist has the potential to follow the traffic ahead while maintaining lane position in environments where there are no pedestrians, cyclists or animals, and where lanes are clearly marked.
Many of the sensing technologies required to deliver Traffic Jam Assist already are available on current Ford models including Focus, Escape and Fusion.
The developing technology would be able to respond to changing traffic situations ahead and communicate any developments to the driver. Traffic Jam Assist would also incorporate features to help ensure the driver remains alert and in contact with the vehicle controls, even when the system is active. It could also be overridden at any time.
In the near term, Ford plans to further develop its active park assist technology, a popular feature that allows drivers to parallel park without touching the wheel. Ford is adding perpendicular parking to the parallel parking maneuvers already possible.
The enhanced system would harness the technologies introduced with active park assist. It uses ultrasonic sensors to identify suitable parking spaces, for width rather than length, and then steers the vehicle into them using electric power-assisted steering (EPAS).
Active park assist is activated by pressing a center console button. When a suitable space is detected, the system will advise the driver to stop with an audible and visual warning. The driver will then be told to put the vehicle into reverse gear and operate brakes and clutch, if needed, while the car controls the steering wheel.
Perpendicular parking functionality would use the vehicle’s rear parking distance control sensors to monitor for obstructions not seen by the driver when backing into the space.
Where there is insufficient space to complete the maneuver in one attempt, the system might ask the driver to shift the vehicle into forward and reverse as necessary. Once the vehicle is perfectly parked, the driver gets a finish signal.
They say a dog is man’s best friend, but who is a dog’s best friend? Look no further than the all-new 2013 Ford Escape. Pets and their owners will appreciate the animal-friendly features, from a second-row compartment for easy access to dry dog food on long road trips to a hands-free liftgate for access to the cargo space for man or dog. These features and more make Escape a vehicle all animal lovers can appreciate.
Social engagement is helping to fuel an 18 percent sales jump for Mustang in 2012
More than 4.1 million fans have already built dream Mustang using the Customizer
New enhanced and celebrity battle modes will let Facebook users cast ballots for their favorite custom Mustang
Four fans will win the fantasy Mustang they build in the Customizer
DEARBORN, Mich., June 21, 2012 – Over its nearly 50-year run, the Ford Mustang has sold more than 8.5 million examples and earned status as an American icon. In the parallel world of social media, its presence is even bigger and about to get bigger still.
To coincide with the new 2013 Mustang now hitting the road, Ford is relaunching its popular Mustang Customizer with a host of new features, such as enhanced battle modes, badges and stats as well as an opportunity for four lucky fans to win either a Mustang V6, GT, Boss 302 or Shelby GT500.
“Since the Customizer was originally launched in September 2011, more than 4.1 million different variations of the Mustang have been built by more than 1 million unique visitors,” said Lee Jelenic, Ford marketing communications manager. “We’re having great success in social marketing by actively engaging our fans and it’s helping to fuel the recent Mustang sales resurgence with sales up 18 percent so far in 2012.”
Customers consistently highlight design and personalization as the top reasons to buy a Mustang. The Customizer gives users a way to craft the look of their favorite ride and compare it with their friends.
Through customer research, Ford learned that for Mustang owners, present and future, Customizer was the perfect mechanism to hand the brand over to them. Ford created a rare opportunity for customers to have a meaningful and authentic experience with the product, without having to get them behind the wheel.
The Customizer, available as an app for iPhone, iPad and Android in mid-summer and online athttp://www.ford.com/cars/mustang/customizer/, allows fans to choose a Mustang V6, GT, Boss 302 or the new 662-horsepower Shelby GT500. They can then apply a dizzying array of colors, graphics, body kits and wheels to achieve the look they want. If the standard color palette doesn’t have anything that looks just right, fans can even use the sliders to blend custom hues.
To make sure the final design looks just right, users can view the car from five different directions with a variety of backdrops and even add some burnouts.
“Fans can save their finished fantasy Mustang to a computer to use as desktop wallpaper or share to their Facebook account and enter into the battle mode,” said Brian McClary, Ford digital marketing manager. “The battle mode pits the designs head to head, where more than 5.1 million battle votes have already been cast.”
Since the special parts and graphics are available off the shelf, these custom Mustang don’t have to remain virtual. Customers can head down to their local Ford dealer and order a Mustang of their own exactly as they built it in the Customizer, except for the unique paint colors.
“We’ve significantly upgraded the Customizer this year,” added McClary. “The original battle mode has been enhanced, and we’ve added celebrity battles, smack talk capability, new user stats and leader boards, badges and points for the activities on the site and apps.”
Earlier this year, a special Mustang TV commercial highlighted some of the possibilities of the Customizer. Click here to view the Mustang Inner TV ad: http://youtu.be/HiyhXf_KVc0.
Over the rest of year, Ford will further sweeten the pot by selecting four dream Mustangs and building them for the creators. Ford will give away one unique Mustang V6, GT, Boss 302 and a Shelby GT500.
The 2012 Ford Fiesta has been named to the 2012 10 Coolest New Cars Under $18,000 list by Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com. Fiesta’s bold exterior makes it a “styling standout,” according to kbb.com editors, with a richer and more stylish interior than its competitors to match. Outstanding 40 mpg fuel economy and “European-like” driving dynamics were also among the deciding factors in naming Fiesta a cool, affordable ride. For the annual list, editors look at two main criteria – fun to drive and fun to own – to determine a vehicle’s “cool” factor. See the full release here.
The Computer History Museum today adds award-winning Ford SYNC® in-vehicle connectivity system to its permanent collection
Powered by Microsoft, SYNC’s easily upgradeable and extendable platform enables Ford owners to take advantage of the latest developments in mobile communications
More than 4 million Ford vehicles are already on the road with SYNC, a population expected to grow to more than 9 million by 2015 as SYNC goes global
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 18, 2012 – When people think of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., names such as Microsoft, IBM, Cray, Apple and Google come to mind. Today, those technological luminaries are joined by Ford as curators add the SYNC® in-car communications and connectivity system to the museum’s permanent collection.
“We are honored. SYNC has helped us move faster than what is usually assumed of an automaker, providing a new level of openness and access that has forever changed how we look at our business and respond to our customers,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation. “Ultimately, SYNC embodies what Ford is all about: going further to transform innovative ideas into products that are affordable, attainable and valuable to millions of people.”
Said Alex Bochannek, curator and senior manager of the Computer History Museum: “As cars have transformed into mobile platforms for consumers’ communication and entertainment needs, the intersection of automotive and computing developments is becoming an increasingly important area for the museum to consider.
“Ford Motor Company’s collaboration with Microsoft on SYNC technology is an example of this changing landscape,” he added. “The Computer History Museum is pleased to add a first-generation Ford SYNC module to its permanent collection in support of our continued efforts to document the effects of computing on society at large.”
SYNC is the award-winning in-car connectivity system that provides voice control for mobile phones and digital music players connected via Bluetooth® or USB. Ford co-developed the system with Microsoft using the Windows Embedded Automotive platform.
“When we first teamed up with Ford nearly a decade ago, we knew we wanted to develop a system that connected consumers’ digital lifestyles to the vehicle they love today, and seamlessly for years to come – regardless of the device,” said Kevin Dallas, general manager, Windows Embedded at Microsoft. “Having SYNC inducted into the Computer History Museum’s collection is a testament to the system’s groundbreaking innovation and to all of the hard work of our engineers, both in Dearborn and Redmond, to deliver a product that continues to meet consumers’ evolving needs and exceed expectations.”
SYNC debuted in the 2008 Focus, Ford’s most affordable car offering at the time, as a $395 option.
Within two years, SYNC became available in every new Ford Motor Company product. By early 2012, more than 4 million SYNC-equipped vehicles were on the road. By 2015, that number is expected to grow to 9 million as Ford introduces the technology into products around the world.
The SYNC software platform has provided for a regular cadence of new features, many of which have been made available to customers as a simple downloadable update they can install at home or by visiting a local Ford dealer. New features have included:
911 Assist® (2008) – an automatic emergency calling feature that uses the customer’s Bluetooth-paired cell phone to directly call 911 if there has been an airbag deployment.
Vehicle Health Report (2008) – an on-demand diagnostic report that gets produced on-board the vehicle and sent via data-over-voice through the customer’s cell phone in order to be accessed through the www.syncmyride.com Web portal.
SYNC Services (2009) – with the addition of a GPS module to the SYNC module inside the car, Ford created an off-board network of service providers that could be accessed with a simple voice command, “Services,” leveraging a customer’s mobile phone voice plan for voice-activated, personalized news, traffic, turn-by-turn navigation, weather reports, business search and sports scores; only a few months later, more services were added to the cloud-based network, including on-demand horoscopes, stock quotes, movie listings and travel information.
Send to SYNC (2010) – using SYNC Services, customers could now send a destination address from either MapQuest or Google Maps straight to their car for easy download of turn-by-turn directions.
Destinations App (2010) – building on Ford’s cloud-based network of services, the first smartphone app for SYNC was launched adding a new level of convenience for customers so they could search for and input destinations, even check traffic, while away from their car.
AppLink™ (2010) – the groundbreaking feature that helped Ford be first to voice-activate and control smartphone apps, such as Pandora and Stitcher, by working with developers in their own native programming languages and leveraging the SYNC application programming interface (API); there are now 10 SYNC-enabled smartphone apps across all three major mobile platforms: iOS, Android and BlackBerry OS.
The birth of SYNCIn 2005, Ford – long considered a “fast-follower” in technology – was looking for ways to change both its perception and its culture.
“We saw connectivity as a way to change that paradigm,” said Doug VanDagens, now global director of Ford Connected Services and an early team member working on the SYNC project.
At the same time, Microsoft was breaking into the automotive market with its Windows CE embedded operating system.
In April 2005, both Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and then-Microsoft CEO Bill Gates were featured speakers at the Microsoft Global Automotive Summit in Dearborn, Mich. The pair started to discuss how they could collaborate on bringing state-of-the-art connectivity into cars.
While consumers replaced mobile phones and digital media players every couple of years to keep up with the latest advances, vehicles typically lasted a decade or more. Relying on an embedded system could leave a car hopelessly outdated long before the end of its useful life.
Rather than force owners to pay for another wireless plan for their vehicles, Ford pursued connectivity platforms that would allow drivers to use the technology they already carried with them.
“By the end of 2005, Ford’s Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering group started active development of a platform that could be kept up to date with the latest technology trends throughout the life of the car,” said VanDagens. “With Windows CE as the base, we could add new functionality through apps that owners could download from the Web and install with a USB flash drive.”
Collaborating with suppliers, including voice recognition leader Nuance, they developed a robust and easy-to-use voice interface. This enabled drivers to make and receive phone calls and select songs, artists, albums, genres and playlists all while keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Designing the system around connecting to mobile devices proved to be fortuitous almost immediately. Just two days after the initial SYNC announcement, Apple introduced the iPhone. Within just a few years, smartphones went from a tiny niche to dominating the mobile phone market.
With hundreds of millions of people using phones running a wide array of apps able to stream media over fast wireless connections, SYNC was poised to take advantage.
“SYNC ultimately became a turning point for the redefinition of the automobile from just an ordinary transportation device into a technology platform that empowers consumers to take advantage of the latest innovations,” said Venkatesh Prasad, another member of the early development team and now senior technical leader of open innovation for Ford Research and Innovation.
Ford Silicon Valley Lab now officially open for business in Palo Alto, Calif.
Ford frames Silicon Valley Lab’s mission around three priorities: big data, open-source innovation and user experience to enhance future personal mobility
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 18, 2012 – The Ford Silicon Valley Lab (SVL) is now officially open for business, ready to engage the tech community in the quest for the next great idea.
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford today comes to the spiritual home of the computer and consumer electronics industry to celebrate the grand opening of the Ford Silicon Valley Lab and to participate in the Computer History Museum’s “Revolutionaries” lecture series.
“We have been innovating for more than a century at Ford, but we acknowledge we don’t have a monopoly on creativity,” said Ford. “Our new office will complement our existing research efforts by allowing us to tap into the region that has been driving consumer technology forward in recent decades.”
While Ford is strongly associated with the industrial heartland of America, the company has global reach with Research and Innovation facilities in Dearborn, Mich.; Aachen, Germany; Nanjing, China; and technology scouts in Tel Aviv, Israel.
“We want Silicon Valley to view Ford as a platform that is open, accessible and ready for their innovative ideas and technologies,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “We are looking for unexpected solutions for the future, and we believe Silicon Valley is the right place to round out our global research organization.
“We view technology as more than just an impressive list of microprocessors, sensors and software,” he added. “It is the enabler of a safe, intuitive and enjoyable time behind the wheel.”
Ford’s Silicon Valley Lab will serve as a local touch point for the many relationships Ford already has with Bay Area technology companies and startups. Its core mission, though, is to operate as an independent lab focused on three key areas supporting the future of personal mobility:
Big data – Ford is increasingly a data-driven company, fusing both internal and external sources to shape product and marketing offerings and support strategic decision making. In addition, vehicle data from the growing list of sensing technologies built into the car can be used locally to create a more personalized, convenient and productive driving experience, then aggregated to help address congestion and improve efficiency.
Open-source innovation – Viewing the car as a platform and providing access to real-time data allows for the rapid development of custom hardware and software applications. Ford has extensive experience in development of on-board and off-board applications for the SYNC® in-car connectivity system. Now the Silicon Valley Lab is looking at open-source development using the research platform OpenXC developed with Bug Labs.
User experience – Information and services need to be presented to the driver in ways that don’t take away from the primary task of operating the vehicle. Ford is rethinking how drivers and passengers interact with vehicles as well as how vehicles should interact with them. Innovations in design and new technologies can help to optimally organize, filter and deliver content.
“As new ways of processing, curating and filtering information are conceived, the possibilities for enhancing personal mobility are virtually limitless,” said Venkatesh Prasad, general manager of the new lab and senior technical leader of open innovation. “With many of the finest forward-thinking minds in the world located in the San Francisco Bay region, the Ford Silicon Valley Lab is ideally positioned to interact with and forge connections to local innovators and grow the relationships with our current partners.”
The Ford SVL team is now ready to listen, learn and even teach at its location in downtown Palo Alto. For more information or to contact the lab, visit http://fordsvl.com.