Local in a Ford Near You

As the pricing for GPS and computer chips drop we have seen computers moving into a range of new situations from TV boxes to your iPod. The capability is now moving into automobiles as well and in this context, Local makes lots of sense. Ford is at the forefront of making this technology widely available in its cars with its Sync technology.

David Berkowitz of Clicktoday did a recent interview with Doug VanDagens of Ford Motor Company. It is clear that Ford has made a commitment to making this technology available in every vehicle at a very low price. Just bring your own voice plan. From the interview:

David Berkowitz: Good, thanks? Do you just want to share what you’re doing?

DV: ….What we’re announcing here at the show is an ability to connect to the internet through a normal voice plan. So all you need is your phone, and we can take Sync through Bluetooth, connect to your phone, connect out to Tellme, which is a voice portal – a best in class voice portal, and Microsoft now owns those assets. From there we can direct you to a number of Internet data sources. We can send the GPS information from the vehicle, we can send health report diagnostic information over your voice plan, and then we have traffic, directions, business search, and information, all internet-based.

DB: This seems unusual to me at least. I don’t follow the automotive industry that closely, but it seems that when a new feature comes out, it’s on your premium model.

DV: Correct. So when we first introduced Sync, we introduced it on the Focus, and the young people loved it, right? It’s a connection to an MP3 player, hands-free cellular calling. This is the same thing. It’s free on every one of our vehicles. There’s another automaker that announced some services similar to this, but it’s only available on their high-end luxury cars. This service is going to be available on every one of our vehicles, free for three years.

You’ll have access to the internet information. You can personalize it. If you want news you can go in and say “I want technology news,” “I want business news.” It’ll be read to you. You can get sports, news, weather. Later this year we’re going to introduce movies and stock prices.

You can get navigation information, so you can go out and say, “Find me the closest Starbucks,” and it will go out, based on your location, and find the closest Starbucks to you, analyze the traffic conditions, tell you how to get there the fasest way, and download the directions to your car. The call will end, and now you’ll get turn-by-turn directions. It will say, “Turn right at 200 yards,” “Turn right now,” it will take you anywhere you want to go. It will do business search – you can get the phone number, and all of this is free for three years.

DB: Does this work in conjunction with GPS or more as a replacement?

DV: We’ve added GPS in all of our vehicles. Starting in January, all of our new vehicles will have GPS. So we send the location from the car so we know where you’re at. You can say things like, “Search nearby,” and they’ll find anything that you want nearby. You can do a business search, you can do it by category, you can do it by actual business name, by proximity. So you can say, “Find me an Italian restaurant.”

It will not be long before it will become necessary to optimize your site for viewing at 65 mph while heading down the highway in search of the perfect pizza parlor. Ford, the strongest of the US automakers, has over the past few years been improving their quality and unlike Chrysler or GM, actually leading for a change.

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9 thoughts on “Local in a Ford Near You”

  1. Gosh, how fascinating.

    Your comment about the pizza parlor made me laugh, Mike.

    But, does this mean if someone stole your car with your phone in it, someone could get access to all of your ‘stuff’? Cars do get stolen all the time, as do cell phones. What would happen in such an event?


  2. @Miriam
    In that case you would be able to track your stolen car because it has phone/GPS capabilities!

    and bet you can always secure some personal info with a PIN.

  3. @Miriam

    Perhaps the voice system also prevents you from accessing the internet when you’re drunk. :).

    I would agree with Martijn, that this would not be the ideal car to steal and use in a bank robbery. Although on a more serious note, the privacy issues are monumental.


  4. Haha! I hadn’t thought of that. Good points, Martijn and Mike.

    The world is really changing. A couple of weeks ago, there was a story about a cell phone location being used to find a missing child. Now car thieves will captured by dint of GPS. Strange goings on. Amazing to be seeing.


  5. @Mike
    I believe Volvo already has a system where it prevents the car from being started when it detects alcohol in your breath 🙂

    And a couple of years ago I was prototyping (university) a system with bluetooth/GPS/mobilephone to automatically warn emergency services in case of a collision (sensors : airbags, belts, etc ).
    All reported accidents were plotted on a Google Map using the API and all the data from database (each accident got stored..).

    I love these developments, and actually that project was what dragged me into Google Maps !

  6. One of the problems with the Ford Sync model for tracking GPS position is, as you say, it requires a voice plan with a carrier like Spring or AT&T. We actually find that many people are interested in service models that do not require contracts with carriers simply for providing location data. The alternative for vehicle tracking or position monitoring with GPS is to broadcast location data not over cellular but over radio frequencies. It is a lower cost alternative and not subject to the oversight of the cell carriers.

    Good post.


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