LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. — As the first Focus Electric gas-free models arrive at dealerships, Ford Motor Co. and Microsoft Corp. executives are highlighting the car’s connectivity and recharging technologies as the kind of innovations required to help address global transportation challenges such as congestion and oil dependency.
The executives are joining other technology leaders through Friday at the Future in Review Conference, a forum to discuss ways to solve even bigger looming issues such as global gridlock that could happen in major cities if urbanization and vehicle ownership growth continue unchecked.
“Ford and Microsoft continue to demonstrate the importance of marrying automobiles with creative technologies such as the features built into Sync and MyFord Mobile that help people stay connected to their digital lives,” says Sheryl Connelly, Ford Global Trends manager. “These innovations will be even more important in a future where urbanization and growing vehicle ownership could literally grind major cities to a halt around the world.”
“Microsoft technology is opening up new possibilities for the connected car in areas that both augment and transcend today’s systems,” says Ben Smith, director of program management for Windows Embedded at Microsoft. “From using simple voice commands to navigate to the nearest coffee shop or manage the interior temperature, to using the vehicle’s on-board technology to find the most economical place to charge up, Microsoft and Ford are changing the way people interact with their vehicle.”
Ford and Microsoft jointly released the first generation of Sync in 2007 as part of a shared commitment to creating a better-connected car experience through the Ford Sync software platform. Sync has been a hit with customers since the initial version was launched in late 2007, with more than 4 million Ford vehicles now equipped with Sync.
Combining forces on EVs
Sync is one of many technology features available on the gasoline-free 2012 Ford Focus Electric and is shared across Ford’s electrified vehicle lineup. Sync with MyFord Touch offers multiple ways — including voice commands — for customers to manage and control their phone, navigation, entertainment and climate functions. Plug-in hybrids and all-electric models have additional options for monitoring information like battery state of charge.
Additionally, Ford Focus Electric customers have access to MyFord Mobile, which is accessible via smartphone or Web-based interface to perform key tasks. This mobile application can monitor a vehicle’s state of charge or its current range, locate charge stations and plan routes.
The MyFord Mobile app harnesses the power of cloud computing through another unique capability developed with Microsoft called value charging.
With value charging, the app keeps track of when participating local utilities switch to lower off-peak charging rates, helping to minimize costs by helping owners in the U.S. charge their vehicles at the cheapest utility rates.
Drivers can enable a single setting in the app and then plug in their cars without ever worrying about what time the rates change in their area. The network monitors utility rate schedules and automatically transmits a signal to the vehicle through embedded cellular connectivity to start charging at the lowest cost.
“The MyFord Mobile Microsoft value charging technology can help save customers money now and, in the future, lessen the pressure on our infrastructure as more electrified vehicles hit the streets,” says Bill Frykman, with Ford Connect Services’ product and business development area.
The MyFord Mobile app will be available for use on most major smartphone platforms including Android, BlackBerry and iPhone. The same capabilities can also be accessed through a mobile Web app for other platforms as well as a secure Ford website.
Retail production of Focus Electric began in May at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. After first being available in California, New York and New Jersey, Focus Electric will be available in 19 markets across the U.S. by summer’s end, nationwide by the end of the year.