Jim and I were recently invited back to Detroit to participate in Ford’s annual trend conference that looks at the global trends and issues facing consumers now and into the future.
Right off the bat, I found it interesting when Bill Ford, Jr. said that Ford Motor Company’s 2 biggest goals are:
#1 To be a fuel economy leader in every segment
#2 To be a technology leader
I really admire that for a car company!
Of course, Ford should be a leader in fuel economy. I mean, that’s what they do for a living: design cars that take us farther… faster… safer.
But I love the fact that Ford also recognizes (a) what consumers really want in this day and age with regard to technology, and (b) how important tech is in terms of “staying connected” 24/7 to all the things that are important in our lives.
[Ford] sees the car of the future as a node on a giant network that helps optimize the driving experience for everyone. —Fast Company
Ford’s Technology Goals
I think it was Ford’s futurist, Sheryl Connelly who acknowledged that “the car has to be a lifestyle tool.”
That’s why they’re trying to make it easier to connect with your friends, your family, your car, and your house via hi-tech products built into Ford vehicles.
Tech has enabled us to do that… to meet your needs better than ever before. –Bill Ford, Jr.
At this event, we also learned that one of Ford’s newest business models is to focus on vehicle-to-vehicle communication as seen here:
In reality, it’s more like vehicle-to-infrastructure communication that’s all integrated into one network. That means Ford vehicles are integrated not just with other cars or people in the auto industry, but also with those in the tech industry, with urban planners, etc.
If we do nothing, the potential is to have global gridlock. This could be a human rights issue if people can’t move (personal mobility) –Bill Ford, Jr.
Ford’s Traffic Jam Assist is another good example of this vehicle-to-vehicle communication:
Ford Tech Streamlines & Simplifies Info And Tasks
Since we are connected most of the time these days — and the lines between home/work/play/passions/obligations are becoming blurred — Ford is working on streamlining and simplifying the info you receive from a variety of sources while you’re driving.
We have a serious love of gadgets these days, and staying connected is almost as important breathing to many people. That’s why, when it comes to tech, Ford is about improving the conversation with your car …adding a 6th sense!
One of the best examples of this is Ford Sync, Ford’s hands free in-car command and control center. Good news: Ford Sync is ‘device agnostic’ which means it works with any other device — such as your own smartphone or other third-party apps.
Gary Clayton, Chief Creative Officer for Nuance Communications (the voice recognition software that is behind Ford Sync), reminds us that as the car moves to the cloud, you have to watch very closely how people interact with things — if, for nothing else, than for safety reasons.
For example, allowing third-party apps is risky in cars because of viruses, downtime, and accidents that could arise due to the inherent limitations of a third-party app.
On the other hand, third-party apps that provide specific data could be beneficial — like being able to access your owners manual via the push of a button, or checking your car’s health data e.g., proactively telling you that your tire pressure is low.
Two other fun ways that Ford uses tech to simplify things:
The activity resembled a team challenge on The Amazing Race or something. The 2-person team that was able to complete the following tasks the fastest got a prize:
- One person had to successfully make a phone call using Ford Sync inside the vehicle
- Then pass the baton off to the other person who then had to run back to a different vehicle and use Ford’s Active Park Assist to successfully parallel park
- Then hand the baton back to the first person who had to use Ford’s Hands-Free Liftgate to open the trunk of an SUV using just the swype of your foot on the ground
In our case, Jim made the phone call with Ford Sync and swyped his foot under the rear of the vehicle to open the tailgate. I did the parallel parking. It’s pretty cool how the car (a) finds a parking spot for you, (b) literally turns the steering wheel for you, and (c) parks itself by telling you when to brake or give more gas!
Our time was pretty good, but we didn’t win a prize. It was fun though. And I’m glad I got to see firsthand how those systems work on Ford vehicles.
See more fun photos from our time in Detroit at Ford Headquarters.
Ford Tech Helps You Drive Better
Jeff Greenberg, senior technical leader for Vehicle & Enterprise Sciences with Ford Research & Innovation, showed us a few of the many ways that Ford vehicles are monitoring driver wellness, heart rate, and breathing in order to help you drive better.
Some of the things Ford vehicles can monitor:
- Biometric information
- In-car activity
- Vehicle response
…all in an attempt to keep the driver focused and alert inside the vehicle while driving.
For example, driver workload is the amount of physical and mental effort required to accomplish a task.
To estimate driver workload, features inside the car can now monitor things like:
- The driver’s heart rate – monitored by the steering wheel that detects the amount of perspiration on your hands
- The driver’s breathing rate – monitored by a ‘smart seatbelt’ that rises and falls with every breath
It’s important to note that these are not medical-grade sensors on Ford vehicles.
Therefore, they cannot be used legally against senior drivers, accident victims, etc. Nor is the data recorded on a black box.
Check out all of the ways that Ford is pushing the boundaries of what a vehicle can do and utilizing state-of-the-art technology to do it!
More About Ford Tech
- My Ford Touch: The Latest Update To Ford Sync
- The Human Voice, As Game Changer
- Ford Technology Fact Sheets
- The Connected Car: Q&A With Ford Motor Company
- Ford’s Lane Keeping System