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Ford and Google look to improve daily commutes via technology

Thu, 12 May 2011

Ford Motor Co. and Google have teamed up in an attempt to ease commuters' daily drives.

Ford researchers are working with the Internet giant and its Prediction interface to improve vehicle systems and performance on daily drives.

The interface, which is just a set of computer instructions, learns a driver's daily routes and calculates the best way to get there, depending on weather, traffic, time of day and, if needed, EV-friendly roads.

The research Ford and Google have done is being presented at the 2011 Google I/O developer conference on May 10-11 in San Francisco.

Prediction will use cloud computing, which means it receives its information streaming directly from the Internet. For all of this to work, the car will have to be a rolling Wi-Fi hotspot--that's where Ford and Sync come in.

“Ford already offers cloud-based services through Ford Sync, but those services thus far have been used for infotainment, navigation and real-time traffic purposes to empower the driver,” said Johannes Kristinsson, system architect, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation. “This technology has the potential to empower our vehicles to anticipate the driver's need.”

When the vehicle starts, the system will use past driving behavior and other factors to develop a prediction for the most likely destinations and optimize performance for that trip, according to Ford.

In theory, with Ford's Sync, the system could say, “Are you going to work?” You could say, “Yes,” and your route would be calculated.

The next step will be to optimize routes for electric cars. The system could put EV drivers on roads with recharging stations if the battery is low, or send them on routes that allow only EVs, which are popping up more and more in Europe.

Both companies are working to add other variables to the equation, such as driving habits, to further improve commutes.

Those of us on the enthusiast end of the spectrum would like to imagine a day when our cars could send us on a curvy country-road commute because it knows we love carving apexes.

“It's about pure customer benefit and creating individualized and optimized experiences,” said Kristinsson. “The right one for each person, vehicle and situation.”

Full press release from Ford below.

Ford Developers Look to Use Google Prediction API to Optimize Energy Efficiency; Research Presented at Google I/O

SAN FRANCISCO, May 10, 2011 – Ford researchers are harnessing the power of cloud computing, analytics and Google innovation to identify technologies that could make tomorrow’s vehicles smart enough to independently change how they perform to deliver optimal driveability and fuel efficiency.

Ford researchers are applying Google’s Prediction API to more than two years of their own predictive driver behavior research and analysis. The Google API can convert information such as historical driving data – where a driver has traveled and at what time of day for example – into useful real-time predictions, such as where a driver is headed at the time of departure.

“The Google Prediction API allows us to utilize information that an individual driver creates over time and make that information actionable,” said Ryan McGee, technical expert, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation. “Between Google Prediction and our own research, we are discovering ways to make information work for the driver and help deliver optimal vehicle performance.”

How it works

Ford is hoping to use these types of cloud-stored data to enable a vehicle essentially to optimize itself and perform in the best manner determined by a predicted route.

This week, Ford researchers are presenting a conceptual case of how the Google Prediction API could alter the performance of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the 2011 Google I/O developer conference. In this theoretical situation, here’s how the technology could work:

After a vehicle owner opts in to use the service, an encrypted driver data usage profile is built based on routes and time of travel. In essence, the system learns key information about how the driver is using the vehicle

Upon starting the vehicle, Google Prediction will use historical driving behavior to evaluate given the current time of day and location to develop a prediction of the most likely destination and how to optimize driving performance to and from that location

An on-board computer might say, “Good morning, are you going to work?” If the driver is in fact going to work, the response would be, “Yes,” and then an optimized powertrain control strategy would be created for the trip. A predicted route of travel could include an area restricted to electric-only driving. Therefore, the plug-in hybrid could program itself to optimize energy usage over the total distance of the route in order to preserve enough battery power to switch to all-electric mode when traveling within the EV-only zone

“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 that the driver may not be aware of, such as an EV-only zone,” said McGee.

Because of the large amount of computing power necessary to make the predictions and optimizations, an off-board system that connects through the cloud is currently necessary.

What’s next

Knowing that driver behavior and patterns correlate to overall fuel and energy efficiency during the vehicle ownership experience, Ford researchers are committed to increasing their understanding of driver behavior behind the wheel and to developing accurate protocols to predict it.

“Anticipating the driver's destination is just one way that Ford is investigating predicting driver behavior,” said McGee. “This information can ultimately be used to optimize vehicle performance attributes such as fuel efficiency and driveability.”

The Google Prediction API is one example of a technology that is helping Ford open doors to new predictive possibilities powered by the cloud.

“Ford already offers cloud-based services through Ford SYNC

By Jake Lingeman