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Ford Launches the OpenXC Program at CES 2013

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2013

OpenXC Today, January 10 Ford announced the launch of the OpenXC Program at CES 2013. OpenXC is an API to your car. It works off a small hardware module which reads and translate information from a car’s internal network. The module is isolated to ensure it can’t be used to brick your car. The module is based on the Arduino platform. The information can then be access by most Android applications using the OpenXC library. This allows the developer to make applications for the vehicle that have a better interface based on context. They can also integrate with other connected services offering you more insight into your cars operation.

OpenXC is a joint venture between Ford Motor Company and Bug Labs. What makes this program different from other existing programs is it is open-source and is built with the hobbyist and independent developer in mind.   It runs on a combination of Arduino and Android platforms. The code to get started will be released on Github and the Ford team will be monitoring Google Groups to answer any questions. OpenXC is not just a software program it can also be used to develop hardware that will extend your vehicle, like for example a Bluetooth Heads-up display.

“Ford is committed to innovating with the help of software and now hardware developers,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford vice president and chief technical officer. “By connecting cars and trucks to wireless networks, and giving unheard-of access to vehicle data, entirely new application categories and hardware modules can be explored — safety, energy efficiency, sharing, health; the list goes on. OpenXC gives developers and researchers the tools they need to get involved.”

If you are an Android software or hardware developer who is interested in working on a project involving cars then you may want to look into Ford’s OpenXC Program.

This article written @ GeekNewsCentral.com and if seen anyplace else has been illegally re-posted.

 

Ford Launches App Developer Program at CES 2013

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 12:42 PM on January 9, 2013

Ford When I saw this headline “Ford Launches App Developer Program” in my email. I thought of two things right away, the first was I wish I owned a new Ford and the second and more importantly I wish I was a developer. This is the first open mobile app developer program in the automotive industry. It works through the SYNC connectivity system and AppLink. The package includes a software development kit, technical support from Ford engineers and the development community. For developers who have an idea but are not sure how to proceed they can work with jacApps who has been chosen to provide development and technical support for third-party developers.

The Ford Developer program has been beta tested with a group of invited developers. This group has included everything from two-man startup like Roximity to large organizations like National Public Radio and Major League Baseball. Ford also worked with Facebook and participated in TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon during the creation of the program. There are currently more than 3 dozen AppLink-compatible apps available on iOs and Android. During the beta testing Ford worked out the details of the software development kit (SDK), documents and the technical support systems. Ford now feels the program is mature enough to release to the general developer community.

The Ford program is similar to those created by Apple, Google and Facebook. Developers who are interested in the program can register at the Ford Developer Program and download the AppLink SDK. The SDK includes code libraries and documentation for the APis. Once the AppLink code is added to the developer’s app they can then submit it for review by Ford engineers. The Ford engineers make sure the app works properly and is suitable for use in a vehicle. Ford then works with the developer to provide a distribution license. The app is then ready to be submitted to the relevant app marketplace. If you are a developer and are interested in having your app be integrated into an automobile now is your chance. New app partners that joined the existing Ford AppLink program recently include Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Amazon Cloud Player, Aha Radio, Rhapsody, Greater MediaGlympse and BeCouply.

 

This article written @ GeekNewsCentral.com and if seen anyplace else has been illegally re-posted.

Ford C-MAX Hybrid Review – First Drive Impressions

Posted by Mike Dell at 3:29 PM on August 27, 2012


I had the chance to drive the New 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid in sunny Los Angeles along with Jeffery Powers from Geekazine.

My first impression of the car is that is a very nice looking vehicle. It defiantly has a Ford family resemblance. From the Grill and headlights on back, you can tell it’s a new Ford. The C-MAX is a name plate that has been used by Ford since 2003 in Europe and late this year, they are bringing it to the US. Totally redesigned for 2013, the C-MAX is built on the global chassis that the Ford Focus is based on, and will be built in Wayne Michigan for the Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid (Energi) versions.

Our drive started off in West Hollywood California towards the coast and up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. We drove in a good mix of Highway, City, and Mountains. In the 100 or so miles we put on the car, it averaged 38MPG according to the on-board readout. The EPA Estimates that the C-MAX Hybrid will get 47mpg highway and 47mpg city if driven conservatively.

The C-MAX has 50 more horsepower than the Prius V, which is a similar sized vehicle, and gets 7 more MPG. I did get a chance to drive the Prius V as a comparison and in the Mountains, the C-MAX definitely didn’t seem to be working as hard to climb the hills. I could really feel that extra 50hp!

The C-MAX Hybrid will be hitting the Ford showrooms sometime later this year at a price of around $25k.

If I were in the market for a small car (Hybrid or not) the C-MAX would be high on my list.

For more information about the C-MAX check out http://www.ford.com/cars/cmax/

Fisker Answers Questions About Their Recent Karma Fire

Posted by Alan at 3:07 PM on August 19, 2012

Fisker has made a lot of news lately, most of it better than this story, since they are the hot electric car maker on the market these days.  You may have read recently about the Fisker Karma that burst into flames on the side of a road on August 10th.  Many people assumed that the fire was caused by the large battery pack that powers these sleek machines, but the investigation seems to indicate otherwise.

Surprisingly, Fisker executives determined that a cooling fan was the culprit behind the fire.  Fisker has decided that the sealed component here had an internal fault, thus causing it to fail and overheat, starting a slow burning fire.  A recall will be coming shortly for those “lucky” enough to have already received their vehicles.

A portion of the official company statement has been posted below.

Fisker has already contacted its retailer network. Customers are expected to be contacted by retailers, ahead of their receiving formal notice from the company by mail, to have the cooling fan replaced with a unit that meets the required specifications. At the same time an additional fuse will be installed for added protection.

In their investigation, independent experts established that the incident was not caused by the Lithium-ion battery pack, new technology components, engine component packaging or unique exhaust routing of the Fisker Karma.

“We are committed to responding swiftly and decisively to events such as this to ensure total customer satisfaction,” says Executive Chairman and Co-Founder, Henrik Fisker. “This incident resulted from a single, faulty component, not our unique EVer powertrain or the engineering of the Karma. As this situation demonstrates, Fisker Automotive is dedicated to doing whatever is necessary to address safety and quality
concerns.”

The owner of the car involved in the Woodside incident, Mr. Rudy Burger commented: “I have been incredibly impressed with the way Fisker has handled this incident. I have personally started seven technology companies and know from direct experience that the US needs more innovative companies of this type, especially in the automobile sector.

“Fisker is a great company and one that I am personally planning to invest in. I look forward to getting behind the wheel of my next Fisker.

Worst Car Ever

Posted by Andrew at 4:36 PM on August 1, 2012

Car hire is always a bit of a lottery. You never know exactly what make or model of vehicle awaits you, only that it will be “mid-size” or “economy”. Usually the car is from a major manufacturer but recently I had the dubious pleasure of renting a car that I had never seen before and frankly, never wish to see again.

Tata Indigo SW FrontThe car in question was a Tata Indigo. Tata is an Indian conglomerate and the Indigo seems to have been developed primarily for sale in India, but is also being sold in Europe. I’m sure it meets all the relevant legislation but it’s an awful car that pales in comparison to any other US, British, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese or Korean car I have ever driven.

How do I describe how bad it was? It was just everything….the interior trim was a sea of poorly finished grey plastic with matching grey cloth seats. The sunglasses holder didn’t stay closed. The driver’s electric window didn’t close properly. The central locking was unreliable.

The boot catch was so insubstantial that I feel it would have opened with a good pull. The boot lid itself was such thin steel that I could easily pull the corner of the lid away from the body of the car. To be fair, the boot was a good size, getting three 20 kg suitcases in there without too much trouble.

Tata Indigo SW RearThe engine was uninspiring, an underpowered 1.2 litre engine, and overtaking on anything other than half a mile of clear road would be a mistake. The tyres (on steel wheels) were narrow in comparison to most modern cars and I’m sure would have made road-holding on a wet and twisty road somewhat challenging. Fortunately, it never rained and the roads weren’t that twisty.

The steering was adequate: the car would go round corners as directed but the power steering didn’t give much feedback to the driver. On the plus side, the brakes seemed to work fine, though I never had to really stamp on them. I was always too scared about having an accident to go very fast.

Apparently a top of the range model costs around 600,000 Indian rupees, which converts to US $10,000. Still too expensive.

Overall, it was simply a terrible car and the luggage space was the only redeeming feature. Top tip to car rental companies – don’t expect your customers to be repeat customers if you have the Tata Indigo in your fleet.

Photos courtesy of Michge.

Audi-Branded IDAPT Charger

Posted by Andrew at 12:22 AM on July 11, 2012

Both Todd and I are fans of IDAPT products; our reviews of the i4 and the i1 Eco are elsewhere on GNC. They’re great products that reduce the number of chargers, cables and general clutter lying around the house.

IDAPT has also shied away from only offering their products in black and white, with the i4 available in a raft of finishes, from solid colours through to funky patterns. Admittedly, they cost a bit extra over the black and white versions but at least they’re an option.

Taking this further, I recently noticed that IDAPT has created a few promotional versions in conjunction with Audi. I snapped this one up from ebay last week. Apart from the graphic, it’s a standard i4 universal charger, with three charging points on the top and a USB socket on the side. There’s a second version featuring a rev counter but I’ve not seen one of those at an affordable price.

IDAPT Audi

I subsequently found the Audi Merchandise Shop but the chargers don’t seem to feature there at the moment.

Perhaps IDAPT could offer a version that you could customise yourself, maybe with pictures of your family or similar. For a device that is often on display in a hall or study, it would be a nice touch.

 

Magellan RoadMate Commercial Truck GPS Navigator 9270T-LM

Posted by tomwiles at 9:44 PM on July 5, 2012

The Magellan RoadMate 9270T-LM is a 7” inch touch screen GPS aimed at the commercial trucking industry. I’ve spent a lot of time with it in real world situations and at this point feel I can give the unit a fair review.

I’ve done a fair amount of experimenting with GPS units aimed at commercial drivers. I live with these things 24/7 and at this point I’ve got a pretty good idea of what a commercial GPS should do. In this review I’ll be using my current Garmin trucker GPS as a bit of a yardstick to compare the Magellan unit to.

The box includes the 9270T-LM GPS itself, along with a long, heavy-duty base unit with dual suction cups capable of securely attaching the unit to virtually any big truck dash, no matter how large or oddly shaped it is. It comes with an AC adapter, which must be assembled with the included prongs for North American AC power outlets. It also comes packed with a USB cable for connecting the unit to a computer for updates, a 12-volt power adapter to power it with a 12-volt vehicle power socket, as well as a very rudimentary user’s manual. The box says the unit can be updated with software for both Windows and Mac, however the website seems to suggest that their Mac update software is limited to certain GPS models.

The Magellan 9270T-LM comes with lifetime maps – that’s what the “LM” stands for. It also comes with lifetime traffic updates, which are accomplished via a passive FM radio system present in many areas of the country. It has a bright 7” inch touch screen that makes the unit easy to read and use. Overall vehicle dimensions can be readily customized, as well as specifying whether or not one is hauling hazardous materials for routing purposes.

The 9270T-LM’s navigation seems on par with the Garmin trucker GPS I’ve had for the better part of a year. It seems to follow truck routes and also is cautious about routing large truck’s around roads it isn’t sure about. One quirk I found with the integrated points of interest is that it does not seem to include the Blue Beacon chain of truck washes, which is a major omission unless I happened to run into some quirk in it’s integrated POI database. I am constantly having to look for truck washes at times on a daily basis so I can get my refrigerated trailer washed out prior to reloading it, so the more complete the integrated POI database is, obviously the better.

In use, the unit warns of an upcoming turn two miles before, then again, as you get closer. It also chimes at both turns and at freeway off ramps. It automatically (and quietly!!!) quickly recalculates if you happen to go past a turn or an exit.

One of the features I really like is the way inputting cities, streets and address numbers works. It is predictive (attempting to predict the names of cities and streets so you don’t have to type the entire words) with a large onscreen keyboard that takes up most of the screen, making the keys easy to hit. It also speaks each letter or number as you hit it, making it easy to tell if you’ve made a typing mistake as you spell the names out.

On the negative side, the unit is fairly inflexible in how it allows you to customize the main screen to your own individual tastes. My existing 5” inch Garmin trucker GPS allows a tremendous amount of flexibility in the multiple pieces of real-time data it allows the end user to simultaneously display. I like to have the current time of the time zone I’m in always displayed, along with the speed limit of the road I’m on, the speed my vehicle is actually traveling, along with how many total miles are remaining for the entire multi-stop trip.

The 9720T-LM has a pop-up display accessed by tapping on the screen that displays the remaining distance, the ETA, the actual vehicle speed, and the elevation. It also displays the direction of travel but I’ve found this digital compass feature to be completely unreliable. This transparent slide-up data display bar stays up for a few seconds and then slides back down with no way to force the information to remain on the screen. It is unfortunate because the large 7” inch touch screen ends up with a lot of wasted screen real estate. I discovered by playing around with it that it is possible to pick one of those pieces of data to display in the lower right corner of the main screen by default. After tapping and getting the slide-up display in position, tap and hold the piece of data you want to remain displaying in the lower right corner and it will stick once the data display slides back down off the screen. The most useful piece of data for me personally and one I find myself constantly monitoring is the current vehicle speed, especially when traveling down two lane roads and going through small towns, which can sometimes be notorious as speed traps.

The Magellan 9720T-LM is capable of multi-stop routes, making it possible to enter a multi-drop trip into the unit all at once, however it falls short in that it doesn’t offer the total miles for the multi-stop trip readily available on the main screen the way the Garmin does. The 9720T-LM only displays the mileage distance to the next programmed stop. This is an important omission for most irregular route commercial drivers, because it is often necessary to calculate the total mileage for a multi-drop trip.

One feature I’d like to see in any GPS is the ability to manually adjust the average prediction speeds myself to particular vehicles. My truck has a 63 MPH top speed, not 65, and not 70. If I could adjust the top speed for about 60 MPH for freeways, and even slower for secondary two-lane roads, the overall ETA predictions would be far more accurate for trucks in the real world.

The 9720T-LM does seem to have some speed limit data for certain freeways, but the data seems to be incomplete. This lack of speed limit data might be revised in future map updates. Going back to my Garmin, it has speed limits for the vast majority of roads, including secondary two-lane roads.

On the plus side, the 9720T-LM calculates routes very quickly compared to my Garmin. On the other hand, the unit can often be somewhat unresponsive to on-screen taps, with delays sometimes of up to a second in some cases before it responds. This delay factor can end up being frustrating if you’ve tapped twice or more thinking that you just didn’t tap hard enough, only to find yourself tapping on something you didn’t intend to and having to start over. To be fair, to an extent my Garmin suffers from the same issue. I don’t know if this is a slow processor problem or a problem that better programming practices could fix.

The 9720T-LM’s integrated speaker located on the back of the unit is loud enough for me to easily hear in my truck at freeway speeds.

Under the “One Touch” menu in the upper right corner of the display, it offers the ability to program in a total of twenty frequent destinations and even save multi-stop trips making it possible to eliminate having to re-enter the same trips over and over again for drivers that are constantly making exactly the same trips or constantly going to the same destinations.

If you are looking for a large 7” inch touch screen GPS for a commercial truck or even a large recreational vehicle (RV), the Magellan 9720T-LM is a nice choice. It offers good routing capabilities for large vehicles, along with a big, beautiful, easy-on-the-eyes display.

Ford Announces New Silicon Valley Lab

Posted by Alan at 8:00 PM on June 18, 2012

Ford has just announced the opening of their brand new Silicon Valley Lab.  Nestled in the heart of the U.S. tech industry, the new lab will work closely with the innovators in the area in the hopes of bringing new technologies into being.  “We have been innovating for more than a century at Ford, but we acknowledge we don’t have a monopoly on creativity,” said Ford. “Our new office will complement our existing research efforts by allowing us to tap into the region that has been driving consumer technology forward in recent decades.”

Ford has been at the forefront of computer technology in automobiles for time now, and their SYNC and AppLink technology is among the most innovative in-car technologies currently on the market.  SYNC and AppLink provide integration with today’s devices and allow the driver hands-free control over much of what goes on in today’s automobiles.  SYNC began in 2005 when Ford partnered with Microsoft to try and change the face of car technology and also turn around their own fortunes.

“We want Silicon Valley to view Ford as a platform that is open, accessible and ready for their innovative ideas and technologies,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.  Venkatesh Prasad, general manager of the new lab and senior technical leader of open innovation added, “As new ways of processing, curating and filtering information are conceived, the possibilities for enhancing personal mobility are virtually limitless.”

As part of the announcement, Ford provided the following trip down memory lane.

MyFord Mobile – The Future of Smart Driving?

Posted by AndrewH at 9:40 PM on June 12, 2012

Adoption of electric vehicles in the United States has been a bumpy road, at best. If it wasn’t cost, it was availability. And if it wasn’t availability, it was functionality. For whatever reason, electric cars can’t seem to get traction.

With a new app announced today, Ford is looking to set the tone for what owning an electric car should feel like. Owners of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric can now download the MyFord Mobile iPhone app from either iTunes or www.myfordmobile.com.

The new app makes owning and operating the new electric Focus seem challenging and fun – a little bit like a game. No longer do the selling points of an electric car have to be contained to economic and environmental advantages (although, those are pretty important, too). MyFord Mobile gives you tools to manage your vehicle – like you would manage your calendar or finances.

“The Focus Electric is a fun car to drive and helps save customers money at the pump; with MyFord Mobile, the enjoyment and savings continue after the vehicle is parked and charging,” Bill Frykman, Business and Product Development manager, said. “This innovative app also offers new ways of sharing your driving experiences to create a “cool” factor while educating new Focus Electric drivers on the perks that come with an electric vehicle lifestyle.”

Among the features of the new app:

  • Users can monitor the battery display for the current charge level and for how long the car will need to be plugged in to get a full charge or reach a desired range.
  • A MapQuest-powered trip planner built into both the app and Web portal enables users to find available public charging stations and plan efficient multi-destination routes.
  • Value charging technology (developed with Microsoft) helps customers charge the vehicle at lowest possible costs based on varying electricity rates depending on location, season and time of day. The app uses Microsoft’s cloud computing platform to check local utility rates and then automatically starts charging after the prices drop.
  • Users can program driving schedules and set a desired cabin temperature.
  • Drivers can learn to be more energy efficient by automatically uploading and processing vehicle data from each trip.

The link between smartphone and car is possible via an embedded AT&T wireless module through which drivers can log in at any time.

Of course, app users can make their Ford Focus Electric ownership a social experience by participating in forums on the MyFord Mobile website – featuring leader boards, achievements and social networking. Driving achievements and statistics can also be shared on Facebook and Twitter – probably leaving your friends and followers wondering why your car is talking to them and possibly eliciting references to 1980s TV classic Knight Rider.

Drivers interested in the MyFord Mobile can check out the site and the app as a guest. MyFord Mobile will also work with the upcoming C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids.

2013 Ford Fusion Driver-Assist Technologies

Posted by Mike Dell at 1:59 PM on May 11, 2012

The all new 2013 Ford Fusion is coming out with unprecedented driver assist technologies usually found only in luxury cars costing twice as much.

“These new sensing technologies help extend the driver’s own senses, providing a level of assistance never before available to the family sedan buyer,” said Adrian Whittle, Ford Fusion chief engineer. “The new Fusion launches this year with these advanced technologies – making them more affordable and available than ever before.”

Lane Keeping System: This system uses a forward-facing camera that scans the road surface ahead looking at lane markings and can evaluate if the car is starting to drift out of the lane. It alerts the driver by vibrating the steering wheel. If the driver doesn’t react, the system will provide it’s own input to the steering nudging the car back into the lane.

Driver Alert System: This used the same front-facing camera that the lane keeping system uses to detect if the driver is getting sleepy. If it does think the driver is getting drowsy, it will give a series of alerts that suggest the driver stop and rest. The alerts include a coffee cup icon (no energy drink icon?) on the instrument cluster.

Pull-Drift Compensation: This system is built into the electric power steering. This will help the driver compensate for a road that leans one way or the other and for heavy crosswinds. This will keep your arms from getting tired if it’s really windy out.

Adaptive Cruise Control: For those who have never experienced adaptive cruise before, you are in for a treat. If you are on the highway and come into heaver traffic or just come up on that guy that seems to be going 3mph slower then you. Instead of kicking off the cruise until it’s safe to pass and then getting around him, with adaptive cruise all you do is stay behind the slower car until it’s safe to pass. Once you pull into the faster lane the adaptive cruise will accelerate back up to your set speed. Ford’s new system on the 2013 Fusion adds collision warning to this package which if your following distance is shrinking too quickly, it will warn you to take evasive action (such as braking hard or steering out of the way).

Active Park Assist: This is sort of the auto-park system. You still have to use the gas pedal and brake, but the car will (using sensors) determine if there is enough room to parallel park and if there is it will steer the car right into place. Just make sure you hit the brakes because you will hit the car behind or ahead of you if you don’t. (Just ask Leo Laporte about that one). I’ve used this system on a Ford before and it’s an excellant system. I can’t parallel park to save my life, but the car I was driving could.

Blind Spot Information with Cross-traffic alert: This system uses the sensors and cameras to warn you if there is another car in your blind spots on either side of the car. There are indicator lights in the side-view mirrors that light up if something is beside you when you go to change lanes. When backing out of a parking space or driveway, the same sensors can see vehicles coming down the aisle and the back-up-camera gives you a nice view directly behind the rear bumper.

For more information on the new 2013 Ford Fusion, check out FordFusionStory.com