Earlier this year, at Google I/O, Ford and Google announced a new project that would use Google’s cloud-based tools to make vehicles smarter. Later this week, at the 18th World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, Ford will give its first public demonstrations of the fruits of this work. The idea behind this work is to use Google’s Prediction API to “predict driver behavior in order to optimize vehicle control systems and improve vehicle performance attributes such as fuel or hybrid-electric efficiency.”
In Ford’s vision, this technology will help drivers to save gas, find the best times to drive a specific route and maybe even set your cars performance settings to optimize your vehicle for the route you are about to drive. Using historical data – where and when a driver has traveled and at what speeds, for example – and real-time information about current traffic flows, this system will be able to turn these predictions into actionable recommendations for drivers.
Until now, most of the cloud-based technology that has made it into cars was about navigation, real-time traffic and infotainment. Now, says Ryan McGee, technical expert, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation, “this technology has the potential to empower our vehicles to anticipate a driver’s needs for various reasons, such as optimizing a vehicle’s powertrain efficiency.”
In the demonstration that Ford has planned for this week, the company will show how “a prototype Escape Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) could use a combination of cloud-based and proprietary technology to learn when to switch from being gasoline-powered to all-electric upon entering a lower emissions zone. Cities such as London, Berlin and Stockholm already have such zones.” Thanks to being able to predict when exactly you will enter such a zone, the car, says McGee, “could optimize itself to comply with regulations and at the same time optimize energy usage over the total distance of the route by switching the engine to all-electric mode at specific times.”