4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech - InformationWeek
Government // Mobile & Wireless
04:28 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
Connect Directly

4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech

InformationWeek 500 Conference preview: Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas will discuss how the automaker is making software an ever more important part of the vehicle.

Ford is thinking about how to combine all of those sensors into "traffic jam assist" software, so cars maintain a certain distance from one another, moving along slowly but at least continuing to move.

The next, dramatic leap would be if cars actively share information. If cars tell a traffic light they're coming, that light could in theory consider traffic in all directions and optimize how long to stay green. Car-to-car info sharing could alert cars miles behind that those ahead have been in an accident or have come to a screeching halt, warning people to prepare to slow down.

Too far out? In August, 2,800 cars in Ann Arbor, Mich., will be equipped with this kind of car-to-car data sharing, as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation's largest real-world test of this concept.

Designing Car Models Digitally

Ford in the past couple of years has pushed the use of virtual reality to help its people design vehicles. A demo of its Immersive Virtual Environment used a car seat, steering wheel, and blank dashboard. Wearing virtual reality glasses and gloves with sensors, a designer sits in the seat and has the vehicle's 3-D design imposed around him or her, experiencing what a proposed interior is like. Are the knobs in an awkward place? Blind spots?

Or the designer can take the view of assembly line workers. Is a bolt they need to tighten too hard to reach? "We can look at what a design change would mean for manufacturing," says Elizabeth Baron, who runs Ford's Immersive Virtual Environment.

Creating In-Car Apps

Truly becoming a software company is Ford's biggest leap. For its entire history, once the company had built a vehicle, it was done enhancing it. Want the latest features? Buy a new car.

Software's different. Ford drew some harsh reviews of its original MyFord Touch touchscreen, but its update generally was seen as solving the usability problems. Software goes out of style fast, and Ford intends to provide updates regularly for features or ease of use. "Increasingly, more of the capability of a vehicle is software," says Ford CIO Nick Smither.

And that leads to Ford's next software challenge: How best to build an app ecosystem around Sync. Its AppLink software lets drivers control select third-party smartphone apps like Pandora using Sync's voice controls. But advanced apps will want to draw on more of the vehicle's data--gas in the tank, speed, engine performance, direction. Ford is exploring how best to share that kind of data in read-only formats, and with whom, so outside developers can innovate without hurting vehicle performance or safety. Ford opened a Silicon Valley center to plug into software development trends and tap the area's entrepreneurs.

How much technology do people want in their cars? How often do they want to upgrade? Can they use technology safely while driving? What's the role of third-party developers? Ford is advancing on all of these fronts, and many of these ideas are the subject of pilot tests and limited deployments. These are near-term possibilities, not "someday-we'll-have-flying-cars" ideas. As Greenberg says about the research into health-monitoring systems, "It's science, but it's not science fiction."

Learn more and ask questions at the InformationWeek Week 500 conference, Sept. 9 to 11.

2 of 2
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
User Rank: Apprentice
6/26/2014 | 6:27:39 AM
Re: Great work done by Ford technology.
As technology is concerned our car makers have achieved a lot of things by using technology in vehicle. Ford is well known for making user friendly vehicles and I love this car too but, I have a BMW. In Ford we can see various user friendly tecghnologies are used and users of this vehicle has positive reviews for it. We can achieve amximum things if we use the technology properly. I like the feature or we can say the technology added in my BMW to produce warning signals when my vehicle face some issues. It is the sensing technology used and it really works fine. I can detect external issues or the issues I face during the driving but, it can detect the internal issues that are away from our visionary area. As we are the driver of the car, it is our responsibility to check out our car when we face any issues in it to avoid from car problems.

BMW Repair Chicago
User Rank: Apprentice
6/19/2014 | 2:12:18 AM
Great work done by Ford technology.
The sync software about which here we have an article and also about some other technologies, so, I think it will be good for us if we come to know about all these important parts of vehicle. In our vehicle if we use such helping technologies and softwares then it will be better for us. We always think of the safety of our vehicle but, if we do not take any preventive steps then we can not stay safe. Ford's new idea is really appreciative. I like the sync software that can be used in vehicles and the sensors that will sense the physical rate of a driver. Sensing technology is really good as it is capable of sensing a lot of things like driver's physic, vehicular problems and many more. It is our responsibility to take care of such technology so that they will perform their best all the time. We have to do the servicing and repair when needed of our vehicles properly. When I am supposed to repair my Mercedes or have to service it, I perfer to go for the best Mercedes repair center in Greensboro and achieve the same for my car. I know the best service center will cost a bit higher but, it worths servicing and repair of the car from a good servicing center.
User Rank: Author
8/6/2012 | 3:25:52 PM
re: 4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech
I think the support piece is the most interesting element of this software emphasis -- that the carmakers are promising to support the vehicle in a way they never have. Yes, they've provided replacement parts and repairs. But now, in software, Ford is not just saying it'll keep the car operating as it was when sold, it's promising to make that software better over the life of the car. That's entirely new thinking.
User Rank: Apprentice
7/31/2012 | 3:32:52 AM
re: 4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech
Advanced convergent technology progression will continue to inspire, offering innovative manufactures a steady stream of "first to market" products and services.

Seamless consistent "quality" integration of advanced convergent systems, and services will certainly improve the brand loyalty performance metric.

I'm passionate about these products and services, moreover, I enjoy envisioning future iterations of products and services.

I'd like to share these with you, but there are so many, it would take, well, the rest of my career, and I'd prefer that Ford Motor Co. benefit from my skills/experience value proposition.

I'm between assignments, actively seeking my next PMO/Program Management Opportunity!

I'm hopeful, and optimistic, taking calls from recruiters representing a variety of industries.

And yet, I remain prayerful God will, somehow, someday soon, move Mr. Mulally to read this, and call.

An Able/Available PMP - Washington Township, MI.

User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2012 | 5:31:39 PM
re: 4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech
While obsolescence is also a concern of mine, I see a whole new industry springing up here -- 3rd party software for updating/improving the OEM version of autoware. O'Reillys will have to have a geek on staff at every store!

Now if my city's traffic department could just upgrade that stupid traffic light down the street so it doesn't turn red every time I approach, even if there is no cross traffic!
User Rank: Apprentice
7/30/2012 | 12:20:39 PM
re: 4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech
I don't object to advancing technology in vehicle application; but what is it first? Transporation from A to B.
That should still be the primary focus of all the OEM's to make cost of ownership and reliable powertrain and chassis a success before the creature comforts and bling items are added. As long as the consumer remains focused on buying and giving feedback about the DVD's, telecommunication, etc.; than OEM vehicle manufacturers will continue to make reliability and cost of repairs a secondary issue. Do we really want $6000 transmission repair bills, because development is focused on cars that commumnicate?
The choice is ours. Influence JD Power and other quality organizations. It is a major source of info to maanagement.
Andrew Hornback
Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/28/2012 | 9:20:23 PM
re: 4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech
I just have to wonder if auto manufacturers like Ford are willing to support these products in the same way that they have to support the other major components of a vehicle. I could be wrong, but I believe that manufacturers have to be able to provide replacement parts for a vehicle up to 7 years after the last of a model rolls off of the production line - so a brand new 2012 that rolls off the production line on 6/30/2012 has to be supported until 6/30/2019. That's an eternity when it comes to technology products.

Also, how secure are these systems? How would the average driver know if their vehicle's computer has been hacked? What happens when your onboard computer system decides that it wants to shut the car down or, even worse, show that you have a full tank when you're on empty? The systems built in to these vehicles have to be inherently trusted and trustable - who's going to guarantee that?

As far as people wanting technology in their vehicle - from my personal experience, yes I do. When I get around to building my 1970 Imperial, I fully plan to implement a system (using a tablet or another standard, commodity system most likely) that will give its occupants an experience that crosses somewhere between HAL and KITT (hopefully more KITT than HAL :) ).

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
7/27/2012 | 8:28:07 PM
re: 4 Ways Ford Is Exploring Next-Gen Car Tech
I believe there are issues with the expansion of technology use in vehicles. The introduction of technology in any facet of life appeals to the younger generations. That appeal is catering to younger and younger people as time goes by. It is evident in most telecommunications equipment on the market. Therein lies one of the issues. Today's phone is tomorrow's piece of scrap. So it goes with technology. Vehicles with built-in obsolescence first arrived on the scene in the '60's. That 'best before date' is getting shorter and shorter with each new piece of technology added to bring down the LCD level of today's drivers.
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll