Ford Launches the OpenXC Program at CES 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 C-MAX Hybrid Review – First Drive Impressions


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/

Ford Announces New Silicon Valley Lab

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?

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

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

All New 2013 Ford Escape – First Drive


I got a chance, this week, to drive the 2013 Ford Escape that will be at dealers in late April or early May. The all-new design of the Escape has a more streamlined look than past Escapes. It’s more “car-like” instead of truck-like.

The engine choices are a 2.5L 4 cylinder non-turbo with 168hp, a 1.6L EcoBoost with 180hp and a 2.0L EcoBoost with 237hp. These engines get better fuel economy than the outgoing engines. The 2.0L engine (the one I drove) have a 3500lb towing capacity, which is the best in the compact SUV class. With the 2.0L EcoBoost, the car felt as if it had a much bigger engine. You would never know you had a 4 cylinder under the hood, until you get to the gas pump. I averaged 25mpg on my test drive, which was over 180 miles in hilly Northern California (San Francisco area). On the highway, the 2.0L is estimated to get around 30mpg.

The new Escape brings many new technologies to the small SUV class that were not available before. Of course, there is SYNC with My Ford Touch and the active park assist that are found on many other Ford products. There is an available hands-free tailgate option that is really handy. All you have to do is have the key in your pocket or purse and you simply kick your foot under the back of the car and the lift-gate opens so you don’t have to put your stuff down to open the door. It will also close the same way if you are unloading your car and you have your hands full, it keeps you from having to go back to the car to close it up. VERY COOL in my book!

Speaking of capacity. The new design of the Escape has more room then past models. Enough room to put 4 golf bags and take you and 3 friends golfing. Try that in another small SUV.

The interior was very roomy and has more drink holders than I’ve ever seen in one car. The fabrics inside the car feel very rich and are made of a lot of recycled materials. The carpet in each Escape, for instance, is made from 25 20-ounce water bottles. So even if you get a red one, it’s green.

I really enjoyed driving the new Escape and would put it on my short-list of new cars if I were in the market. The 2013 Ford Escape starts at around $22,000 and will be available soon.

For more information about the new Escape, go to ford.com/suvs/escape or see your Ford dealer this spring.

Ford Announces Big Update Coming to MyFord Touch Owners

Earlier this afternoon Ford announced they will be issuing a major update this week to all MyFord Touch owners.  MyFord Touch is the in-car touch controls that work with smartphones and MP3 players, along with navigation (when included) to improve driving experience and entertainment options while keeping drivers safe from distractions.

According to a press reslease issued earlier today by the auto maker, “Ford is delivering on the promise of the “Upgradeable Car” –  more than 300,000 current MyFord Touch owners will be receiving upgrade packages in the mail this week that include a USB flash drive with updated software for at-home installation, all free of charge”

Features of the new update include faster system response, easier control, tablet compatibility, simpler controls, enhanced voice recognition, and support for Audible audio books.  Those who have cars with built-in navigation will also receive updated map views, more 3D landmarks, richer graphics, and photo-realistic freeway images.  According to Ford, “When you have finished the upgrade, you’ll need to pair your phone, download your phonebook, and re-enter any saved Navigation points. Also, be sure to bring the USB drive back to your computer to confirm your upgrade using your SYNC Owner account.”  The update is completely free.

Ford Inventing for the Future

Ford-Cmax HybridJeffrey Powers and Andy “Hardhathead” Smith talked to Johannes Kristensson of Ford about the research that Ford is involved in now and into the future. Ford showed off the Evo Concept car at CES 2012. It shows off the technology that they are working on and maybe in their full line of cars five to seven years from now. For example five years ago the idea of the app link was just a dream. The engineers and research at Ford were not sure how they were going to do it or if they could. Today it is what people talk about when they talk about Ford vehicles.

One of the biggest changes for Ford that has happen over the last five years is Ford no longer thinks of itself as a car company, it sees itself as a technology company that also makes the car. The researchers and engineers at Ford get their inspirations from consumers, their colleagues and from other industries. One of the areas that Ford is currently working on is connecting the car to the cloud. They are developing vehicle to vehicle communication. So if the tires of your car hit an ice slick, that information can be communicated to the cars around you, or your car could get a message from a stop light telling you it’s about to change and you need to be prepared to stop. These are just a few examples of what Ford is working on for the future. Ford has been around now for over a 100 years, and I believe that Ford is innovating more today then it has for a long time, perhaps since Henry Ford was in charge.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy HeadHardHat Smith of RVNN.TV

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Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric Vehicle Ford showed off the Focus Electric Vehicle at CES 2012. Instead of starting from scratch, they took a vehicle that was both familiar and popular with the consumer and the critics and turned it into an electric vehicle. Unlike many of their competitors electric cars which can take up to 8 hours to do a full charge on a 240 volt system. The Ford Focus Electric Vehicle can do a full charge in three to four hours. The addition of MyFord Mobile allows you to control when your car is charging from your computer. So you can charge your car during off-peak hours and stop and start it when you want too. Another third-party that Ford has partner with was MapQuest. So now you can map your trip on your computer or tablet and send it to your car so it there when you are ready to leave.

It can get from 75 to 100 miles per charge and reach up to 100 mph. Ford has placed two battery packs in the car one behind the rear seat and the other under the floor panel in the rear. This allows for maximum capacity while not taking up room where the consumer may want it, such as the trunk. The batteries are encased in steel and protected by the car itself. Ford did a lot of testing to make sure they were safe in case of a crash. This vehicle is made mostly in the U.S. The Michigan plant that is building the powertrain for the Ford Focus Electric Vehicle also builds the powertrain for other vehicles. Ford continues to invest in technology of the future.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine

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Ford Sync Has new Apps Coming

Ford has established themselves as the auto-maker of the tech generation, with their innovative in-car technologies like “Sync”, which was a Microsoft technology that they were the first to license.  Last month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas they unveiled several new apps that will be coming to the service.

The list included NPR Radio, for those who can’t live without their “This American Life” fix (guilty), Stitcher Radio, Tune-In Radio, and IHeartRadio.  In addition, they debuted Sync Destinations and announced that Scout, another location app, will be integrating into Sync in the future.  Be sure to watch the video below to get a demonstration of how all of these apps, running on your phone, will integrate right into the Sync touch-screen built into your Ford car.  Your phone, and it’s apps, will integrate into your car right over a Bluetooth connection.

Currently Ford is not only looking at adding Sync to all new vehicles, but actually looking at ways that they can add it to previously released vehicles.  All of the Sync features are voice-controlled.  You’ll hear a complete list of features and vehicles in the video.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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