FORD, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN INNOVATE WHAT’S NEXT FOR IN-CAR CONNECTIVITY AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

FORD, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN INNOVATE WHAT’S NEXT FOR IN-CAR CONNECTIVITY AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

  • Ford and the University of Michigan kick off the “American Journey 2.0,” a joint open innovation research project offering students the chance to define future in-car experience.
  • Student teams compete in development of social networking apps relevant to the driver and the journey, including those that offer location-based entertainment and fuel economy improvement guidance.
  • Data gathered will help model the future of in-car communications and potential new capabilities of Ford SYNC, the industry-leading infotainment and connectivity system.
DEARBORN, Mich., Oct. 29, 2009 – Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor are working together to discover the next frontier of in-car-communications.
 
The two have joined forces to launch a project that gives students access to a Ford developmental operating system so these students can test and program new applications in search of the “what’s next” for in-car connectivity.
 
“Already with SYNC, we have proven that we can access information in the ‘cloud.’ This research gives us the opportunity to harness the power of student innovation to explore beyond those capabilities and develop what’s next,” said Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader of Ford’s Infotronics team in Research & Advanced Engineering. “We want the students to get creative and develop ways to responsibly connect the car to communicate and share with the outside world.”
 
The two-phase advanced research project called the “American Journey 2.0,” is aimed at finding new ways to harness the power of social networks and cloud computing to deliver the future of a grand tradition, the great American road trip.
 
Ford is the industry leader for in-car connectivity and its award-winning SYNC system, co-developed with Microsoft, is the first to seamlessly integrate a variety of technologies providing emergency, diagnostic and information services as well as traffic reports and directions all through a user’s Bluetooth-paired mobile phone. Current technologies include: on-board text-to-speech engine, data-over-voice technology, a GPS receiver, and an off-board routing engine and information services network accessed through a voice portal.
 
The next breakthrough in the connected car experience – especially amongst the emerging market force of the Millennial generation – will be responsibly accessing social networks, including Twitter and Facebook, plus other internet data to further improve the driving experience.
 
The Microsoft “Millennials in Automotive Survey 2009” reported that 77 percent of those surveyed use social networking sites, 50 percent subscribed to more than one site; 64 percent frequented them daily; and 33 percent reported spending 30 minutes or more for each visit. In 2010, the Millenials will make up 28 percent of the driving population, up 9 points from just 2004, making it a powerful consumer group to target.
 
“Research like this pushes the envelope of current technology and helps us identify and solve the next set of challenges in the evolving arena of vehicle connectivity,” said Dr. Jason Flinn, an associate professor at the University of Michigan. “What excites me about this project is that it gives our students the opportunity to unleash their creativity using cutting-edge technologies to find the best ways to connect the vehicle and the ‘cloud.’”
 
Such reach-out and collaboration with a university’s student body represents a developmental shift for Ford as it looks for ways to use novel models of open-source collaboration similar to how ideas are cultivated in Silicon Valley. This new way of innovating is aimed at delivering the driver with relevant and personalized content that is tailored for the individual driver’s unique in-car experience.
 
Phase One – Testing the Platform
Phase one of the project starts with a small group of computer and electrical engineering students beta testing a Ford prototype in-vehicle connectivity software platform that supports navigation, cell phone and digital music players, and has the enhanced ability to access vehicle performance data and act as an interface for newly-developed social networking applications.
 
“We are doing a complete shakedown of the development platform,” said Dr. Brian Noble, associate professor of EECS at U of M. “It’s an awesome project because we are working on the bleeding edge, able to add our knowledge, insight and interests that could have real-world impact on how we drive, and how our commutes impact the environment and each other.”
 
The intense six-week student “test drive” of the open platform began in early October, with students tirelessly running multiple combinations of applications, trying to break codes and force the system to crash.
 
Phase Two – American Journey 2.0
The winter course will be open to 25-30 students of multiple disciplines, and will feature small teams collaborating on the Ford developmental software platform and building upon its connectivity capabilities with new applications.
 
A panel of judges from Ford, University of Michigan, Microsoft, Maker Faire, and other professions will pick the winning application set at the end of the course and the chosen student team will install their new connectivity programs in a specially prepared Ford Fiesta for what Ford has dubbed the “American Journey 2.0” – a group expedition to test and show off their efforts at the 2010 Maker Faire, the world’s largest do-it-yourself convention held next spring in California.
 
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 201,000 employees and about 90 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com.
 

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