Ford to Demonstrate Google-Powered Smart Electrification Technology Later this Week


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.”

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Google and Ford Team Up to Make Your Next Car Smarter


At Google’s I/O developer conference today, Ford announced a new research project that will use Google’s prediction API to help drivers save gas and drive more efficiently. Ford plans to use Google’s service to analyze data it has collected about drivers’ habits to “predict driving patterns and adjust automobile controls to optimize fuel or hybrid-electric efficiency.” For drivers, this could mean that their next car could automatically optimize its route and performance settings depending on information Ford has learned by analyzing this data in Google’s cloud.

With the help of Google’s API, Ford says, researchers will be able to design systems that can use historical data – where and when a driver has traveled and at what speeds, for example – and turn this into actionable real-time prediction by mashing them up with other realtime data.

How This Could Work

In Ford’s vision, a driver would opt into this system and allow Ford to build an anonymous profile based on the data it gathers from a given car’s telematics system. Based on this data, the system would then be able to predict where you are going depending on the time of day, for example, and optimize your car’s performance settings accordingly. The car could also ask a driver for confirmation as well (“Are you going to work?”).

According to Ford’s Ryan McGee, technical expert, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation, “Anticipating the driver’s destination is just one way that Ford is investigating predicting driver behavior. This information can ultimately be used to optimize vehicle performance attributes such as fuel efficiency and driveability.”

All of this obviously takes a lot of computing power (especially when combined with additional realtime data about traffic jams etc.). Because if this, says Ford, the company decided to use Google’s cloud-based platform for this project.

As of now, of course, this is only a research project, but given that Ford and other car manufacturers are already adding Internet connectivity to their cars, this is a natural extension of this concept and show the innovation we can expect to see around connected cars in the future.


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Using WiFi to Create Smarter, Safer Cars and Intersections


A few weeks ago, I wrote that your next car might just have its own IP address. Besides talking to the Internet, though, there is also a lot of utility in using short-range networks that can link multiple cars together into a single, ad-hoc network and alert drivers of potential hazards. Today, Ford announced a new initiative that will rely on short-range WiFi signals to enable cars to create local networks to exchange data about their positions and speeds to avoid accidents.

Of course, this system only works once a lot of cars and manufacturers offer this feature and agree on a standard, but as the video below shows, there is a lot of potential for this. Cars that can talk to each other (and maybe even get traffic information from local “smart” intersections or highway on-ramps) don’t have to rely on expensive systems like radar. Instead, just basic GPS information, coupled with an ad-hoc WiFi network and some smart software could, as Ford puts it, “warn drivers if there is a risk of collision when changing lanes, approaching a stationary or parked vehicle, or if another driver loses control.”

Not Just Smart Cars, But Smart Intersections, Too

Ford is also proposing “smart intersections” that would be able to talk to cars and be able to “monitor traffic signal status, GPS data and digital maps to assess potential hazards, and then transmit the information to vehicles.”

The company is working with other car makers and the U.S. government to create standards for bringing this technology to deployment. In addition to all of this, the company also announced that it is doubling its intelligent vehicle investment in 2011 and plans to have demonstration vehicles that offer this WiFi-based technology on the road in the next few months.

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