What will Ford think of next?


In an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Mark Fields, Ford’s head of the Americas, said, “We’re thinking more and more like not only a car company, but a technology company.”  There is no doubt that Ford is the most innovative automobile company today, demonstrated by their recognition as the only full-line automaker in Fast Company’s 2013 Most Innovative Companies.

In our Apps are the Future blog post, we talked about how Ford owners can expect many more smartphone apps to become available for AppLink in the near future.  These future apps may be very advanced, such as a health information smartphone app that collects the driver’s temperature and breathing rate information from sensors in the seat belt and steering wheel.  Although Ford will continue to improve vehicle to mobile connectivity, in an interview at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas said that Ford is moving from connectivity through the mobile device to progressively more connected vehicles.  For instance, Ford is developing technology that in the near future will allow vehicles to talk wirelessly with one another to reduce crashes and traffic congestion.  Ford is also exploring how this technology could provide driver conveniences such as remote parking reservations through connections with other smart operations.

Ford vehicles are equipped with many driver-assistance and active safety technologies, which you can read more about in our previous blog post, Ford Technology: Part III.  Mascarenas explains that these technologies help make vehicles smarter, thus making drivers better and creating a safer driving experience.  One future driver-assistant system that Ford researchers are working on is a driver workload estimator to help drivers manage stressful situations on the road.  Although these kinds of technologies seem to point towards the development of self-driving cars, Mascarenas says that Ford is not interested in developing technologies that replace the driver.

The driver will always have some control of either the speed or the direction of the vehicle.  For instance, adaptive cruise control controls the speed, but the driver still steers the car.  The self-parking feature controls steering, but the driver still controls the speed of the car using the brake and throttle.  Mascarenas says that Ford is working on blending these different driver-assistance technologies, increasing their speed of operation, and increasing vehicle functionality by leveraging the sensing that’s in the vehicle to create a safer, more relaxed, in-driving experience.

What kinds of developments are there in electric vehicle technology?  Wireless charging.  Instead of plugging in your electric vehicle, you simply park it over an inductive charging device.    This advancement will make owning and driving an electric vehicle much more convenient.  A company called Evatran is already making Plugless Power charging stations that SPX Service Solutions will begin installing this April for Leaf and Volt owners.  Ford is working on its own wireless charging technology.

Which one of these future vehicle technologies are you most excited about?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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