Experimental apps were developed by students who took part in a 12-week course, Cloud Computing in the Commute, at the University of Michigan.
The course, initiated by Ford Research & Advanced Engineering, prototyped social networking and transportation apps as part of a larger Ford initiative called “American Journey 2.0,” a joint open innovation research project involving Microsoft and Intel, offering students the chance to innovate the future of the in-car experience.
Using technology and development tools provided by Ford, Microsoft and Intel, six teams of students crafted these apps:
* Caravan Track was judged the winning app. The software allows clusters of vehicles traveling together to track each other along the journey.
After identifying a route on a main website, users can join to see fellow travelers; view vehicle telemetry including fuel level and speed; track each vehicle; map routes; send alerts about stops along the way; and send text notifications about road conditions and hazards via a multiple choice interface that eliminates the need to type.
* Fuel Tracker provides drivers with real-time feedback about fuel economy and driving habits based on past drivers on a specific route. App users upload their results for different road segments, allowing users to compare details, compete for top fuel economy and share suggestions for improving mileage along specific routes.
* The GreenRide Challenge provides a collaborative ride-sharing system, attempting to connect drivers with potential carpool passengers in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The app is connected through Facebook, matching friends who need rides with destinations entered by the driver – and also allowing the driver to invite friends to ride.
Points would be awarded for ride-sharing, providing for a possible sponsored reward component.
* Listen. Speak. Rate. Share. provides users in-car audio reviews for various points of interest, and also allows drivers to share their thoughts on visited locations, connecting through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular social media sites.
* NostraMap collects data about road and traffic conditions, giving drivers advance notice about accidents, construction, poor surfaces and other hazards. The app relies on crowd-sourcing: When a user encounters a situation, he or she draws a single character on the map display (A for accident, C for construction, etc.), which is then updated for all users to see.
* Points-of-Interest uses a dynamic recommendation system to point drivers toward locations and businesses that match their interests but that they may not have otherwise visited.
The system uses a complex algorithm to learn a driver’s tastes and interests over time, allowing it to provide more tailored recommendations and learn the tastes of users with similar interests.
A project like American Journey 2.0, involving teamwork with a university’s student body, represents a developmental shift for Ford as it looks for ways to use novel models of open collaboration similar to how ideas are cultivated in Silicon Valley. The goal is to deliver relevant and personalized content tailored for an individual driver’s unique in-car experience.