Ford's development chief is an apps-on-wheels promoter

  • 19-Oct-2010 04:17 EDT

Ford's Derrick Kuzak talked about the importance of technology partnerships, including the Ford-Microsoft effort that resulted in Ford's Sync system.

Partnerships are enabling Ford Motor Co. to offer drivers of its vehicles unique in-car experiences.

In his Oct. 19 keynote address at SAE Convergence 2010 in Detroit, Derrick Kuzak, Ford Group Vice President of Global Product Development, said that "apps on wheels" are creating new business opportunities.

The enabler for "apps on wheels" happened a few years ago when the company decided to adopt a flexible and upgradeable in-vehicle connectivity solution as a way to address the quick-change development pace inherent with handheld electronic devices—especially since drivers were bringing their personal electronic devices into the vehicle.

Prior to the launch of its Sync voice-controlled communications and entertainment technology in 2007, Ford decided to go with an agnostic platform that leveraged a consumer's Bluetooth device rather than develop an embedded vehicle solution.

"This has proven to be the right choice, and one that still sets us apart," said Kuzak.

The Ford-Sync ecosystem enables a built-in, brought-in, beamed-in strategy "that provides our customers with virtually unlimited possibilities for added safety and convenience," he said.

For instance, beamed-in applications are available through the cloud-based Ford service delivery network that can be accessed by the vehicle owner's Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. "Traffic, Directions, and Information [TDI] services are a great example of a beamed-in application, giving users on-demand access using simple voice commands," said Kuzak.

Developed in partnership with TellMe, a Microsoft subsidiary, TDI provides hands-free access to traffic reports, turn-by-turn driving directions, sports, weather updates, and more.

The cloud-based approach means no hardware or software upgrades are required. "We're providing a software development kit to select partners, enabling Sync integration of an application within days," said Kuzak.

Ford intends to change and enhance the driving experience through technology partnerships.

MyFordTouch and MyLincolnTouch, which launched on the 2011 Ford Edge and 2011 Lincoln MKX, respectively, integrate the entire in-car Sync experience—an experience made possible because of the "creativity and commitment of a large number of partners working together in a collaborative community," said Kuzak.

Ford and its suppliers can help develop ways for drivers to have a more seamless home-office-vehicle link while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, according to Kuzak.

To illustrate his point, he asked engineers to imagine an application known as driver's education 2.0 that would use local traffic and accident information to provide alerts about potentially hazardous intersections.

"It would be like having talking traffic signs that would warn you of [the intersection's] history as you approach the intersection. That's just one example of what's possible if we work together and leverage the Internet to create a world of apps on wheels while also making life simpler, more convenient, and safe,” said Kuzak. "So let's continue to work together in partnership. Let's find the next big idea that reinvents the in-vehicle experience for our customers.”

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