Opening Ford's research doors to tech-savvy college students is a dream come true for Ford research engineer TJ Giuli. Since joining Ford's Infotronics Research & Advanced Engineering team in 2005, Giuli has been a strong proponent of the open innovation model, tapping minds at universities and other organizations outside the automotive industry for the next best idea for in-vehicle connectivity and infotronics.
One of Giuli's latest open innovation projects is American Journey 2.0, which paired up Ford and University of Michigan students who were challenged to build a new class of social networking apps for the vehicle during a 12-week course. The winning app made its way into a Ford Fiesta for the ultimate test drive to California for the 2010 Maker Faire, the largest do-it-yourself event of its kind.
"The conversation started with, 'What if we developed a test platform for third-party developers to experiment with?'" Giuli recalls. "Next, we asked ourselves, 'What if those third-party developers were students and we were to do a class?' And then we threw in the journey to Maker Faire, which made for an easy sell to the students," he adds.
Giuli helped create a developmental mobile computing platform called Fiestaware for the course and then gave the students the freedom to harness the power of social networks in the cloud to develop their own personalized app. They didn't disappoint, developing six unique apps ranging from a fuel tracker to the class-winning caravan app that allows a cluster of vehicles traveling together to track each other on a journey.
"The quality of the apps that came out of the class demonstrates why enabling third-party and student developers to work with Ford makes sense," says Giuli.
In addition to fostering the relationship with U of M and its students, Giuli also works closely with other institutions, including MIT and the University of Washington, where he has delved deep with academics into the realm of vehicle-to-vehicle communications and how to create the right protocols that support both infotainment features and more warning-related features such as remote braking or lane departure.
"I want Ford to be a long-term leader in terms of consumer-style electronics that relate to the vehicle, which means we can never rest and we always have to be looking for new ideas that could come from unlikely places," says Giuli.
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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 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.
May 12, 2010