Ford & Google are here to automate your vehicle

Just like the prevention of forest fires, improving your vehicle’s efficiency and fuel economy falls squarely upon the driver — the way you drive, when you drive, and where you drive all factor into how much fuel your vehicle drinks. Ford thinks a bit of technology could help, and as a result, the automaker has partnered with Google to use the search engine giant’s Prediction API to the vehicle adapt to your habits.

Although the idea is still in its infancy, the partnership theoretically allows Ford to collect data about your vehicular use, including when you drive, how far you drive, how long you drive, and where you drive. Over time, the cloud-based system can trace habitual patterns, and optimize various systems for the type of drive.

This could easily be applied to navigation (i.e. a system routes the driver on the most fuel-efficient route), but the Ford/Google system could potentially allow the entire vehicle to adapt to a particular drive cycle. One example Ford provided involves a plug-in hybrid — if a driver faces a long stretch of highway commuting followed by an urban drive cycle, the system could tell the vehicle to run in a matter that preserves battery life/ pure EV operation for the end of the drive cycle.

“The Google Prediction API allows us to utilize information that an individual driver creates over time and make that information actionable,” said Ryan McGee, a technical expert in vehicle controls architecture at Ford. “Once the destination is confirmed, the vehicle would have instant access to a variety of real-time information so it can optimize its performance, even against factors the driver may not be aware of, such as an EV-only zone.”

Although the idea is groundbreaking, Ford isn’t a stranger when it comes to in-car cloud computing. Presently, the company’s Sync multimedia system uses a cloud-based approach primarily for infotainment, allowing users to obtain music information navigation, traffic, and news (i.e. stocks, weather, etc.) data through a data connection. Cloud computing allows for high levels of processing power to be harnessed in the vehicle over a secure high-speed connection, eliminating the need to store all that data within the vehicle.

For the time being, Ford and Google say this idea is still a concept, but both parties are actively working on pushing it into reality. The first step lies with increasing the security of both the data connection and the data storage, given the sensitive nature of the data mined by the system.

So what do you say, would you like a car that adjusts to your habits, or is the idea a little too Big Brothery for your comfort?

Author: Jason Zajdel

Learning as I go along. It's an awesome ride. =-)