ANN ARBOR, Mich., May 12, 2010 – Two Ford Fiestas will leave the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on May 13, and though the cars may be separate, they will be linked to each other and to the entire global community in ways that mark a new era in mobile connectivity.
Embarking upon a week-long road trip to Maker Faire, Silicon Valley's annual ideas festival, the Fiestas and their occupants will be serving as messengers from Ford announcing the arrival of the car as a technology platform.
"The car is the ultimate mobile device," claims Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader of the Infotronics team in Ford Research & Advanced Engineering. "Ford has led the convergence of the auto and consumer electronics industries, and now we're researching how to responsibly and safely harness the Internet to enhance drivers' time behind the wheel."
In one Fiesta, the team from Ford Research & Advanced Engineering (R&AE) and IT – T.J. Giuli, Joe Rork, Joe Ross and Tom Alexander – will be demonstrating three experimental apps, known as Virtual Road Rally, "Auto"matic Blog and Local Search, developed on top of Ford's application development platform built on Windows 7 and Microsoft Robotics.
In the second Fiesta, U-M computer science students Collin Hockey, John Ciccone, and Joe Phillips and School of Information student Sangmi Park will be using Caravan Track, an app they developed as part of a 12-week course called Cloud Computing in the Commute. Ford initiated the course to challenge students to develop social networking personal transportation apps. Caravan Track was judged the most compelling, out of six creative apps presented at the conclusion of the course, winning the students a trip to California with Ford engineers. (Read more about the U-M student apps here.)
"We believe this is the first time vehicles will be socially connected through the Internet during a cross-country trip," said Giuli, Ford research engineer. "All the apps – from Caravan Track to the Virtual Road Rally, and particularly the notion of the car automatically posting its mood and location – really explore new boundaries in the use of digital tools to expand social links."
The road trip will signal the culmination of a yearlong Ford initiative called American Journey 2.0, a joint open innovation research project, supported by Microsoft and Intel, offering a group of U-M students a chance to define the future in-car experience.
About the Ford apps
The Ford team will be using three apps developed within the company's connected vehicle labs.
Technology meets tradition
The Ford connected road trip is an outreach to two key demographics who will help shape the future of Ford vehicles: Fiesta buyers, largely expected to be connected young Millennials like the U-M students and the crowds expected to greet them during their university stops; and budding app developers interested in the future of software development and mobile platforms. At the same time, the journey hopes to harness the power of social networks and cloud computing to introduce a new twist to the great American road trip.
"The challenges faced by the students are representative of what the new era of developers will face as they begin programming the Internet-on-wheels, and what a new generation of customers will want from this technology," said Prasad. "We are creating tools for this new generation and we are learning as much as we can, while adapting to seeing things through the eyes of up-and-coming programmers."
A project like American Journey 2.0, involving teamwork with university students followed by hands-on testing, represents a significant developmental shift for Ford. The company is actively looking toward innovation hubs like universities and Silicon Valley to learn the best ways to deliver relevant and personalized content tailored for the individual driver's unique in-car experience.
"These collaborations are also valuable to Ford and our development ecosystem in the long term," added Prasad. "If we're going to lead in shaping tomorrow's world-on-wheels, we need a top talent pool from which to draw, and we need to be a catalyst to the entire value chain."
At the road trip's final destination, Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif., May 22, the U-M students and Ford engineers will have the chance to share their work with global leaders in technology development.
"Maker Faire is where technology enthusiasts gather to see new projects and I know they'll be excited to think about the car as a technology platform and the new applications that can be built" said Dale Dougherty, editor and publisher of MAKE Magazine and Founder of Maker Faire.
"This event is demonstrating that we at Ford do not view cars and trucks as just vehicles but as platforms for development," Giuli said. "Whether someone at Maker Faire is a car enthusiast or a techie or a programmer, we're inviting them to come interact with the vehicle and help us shape the future."
Follow the Journey
On Twitter: www.twitter.com/AJtheFiesta (#aj2)
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/AJtheFiesta
Ford Team Blog: www.AJtheFiesta.com
U-M Team Blog: www.AmericanJourney2.com
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 176,000 employees and about 80 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and, until its sale, Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.