Cars And Tech: Go Further With Ford Trend Conference 2012

Ford's Second-Annual Trend Conference

Ford Motor Company invited a group of journalists and bloggers to its Dearborn, Michigan headquarters for the Go Further with Ford Trend Conference 2012, which began June 26th and lasted three-days. Throughout the conference, Ford exposed us to upcoming trends, technologies, and its eco-conscious developments.

Everyone was shuttled out to Ford Field for the opening keynote and dinner. Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, gave the keynote where he welcomed everyone and discussed key decisions that turned the company around without a need for any federal bail-out money.

The Next SYNC Upgrade

Ford gave us a sneak peek at new features in development for SYNC systems, including the new SYNC Communicator app.

SYNC Communicator takes the AppLink protocol beyond Pandora and other music apps to serve as the hub for messaging and social networking. The Ford demo showed a live chat going on via GoogleTalk with SYNC reading and dictating messages to send. However, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and texting should work as well.

The beauty of SYNC Communicator was that Ford demoed it running on first-generation SYNC hardware. That opens up the possibility of an update going back to model year 2008 vehicles.

Ford Leverages The Cloud

Ford showed off its SYNC Cloud Translator app, which uses SYNC to take advantage of your smartphones data connection to translate spoken foreign languages.

SYNC Cloud Translator uses SYNC to receive audio, which is uploaded to cloud-based servers powered by Nuance Speech Recognition, translated by Google Translator, converted via text-to-speech by Nuance, and then output through SYNC and your car's speakers.

In its current state, the solution is not usable in real-time; it suffers a horrendous amount of lag. We also had a hard time seeing how this would ever become useful in a car, even as a novelty.

Ford ran its SYNC demos on a TDK, which is the company's SYNC-in-a-box development platform.

The SYNC with MyFord Touch TDK had AppLink support, and worked with Pandora and iHeartRadio smartphone applications. We had a limited amount of time in front of the TDK, so we didn't get a chance to test AppLink, though other members of the press managed to use their iPhones perfectly fine.

Unfortunately, Ford hasn't yet set a release date for AppLink support on SYNC with MyFord Touch systems.

Measuring Driver Wellness Within The Car

Ford is researching a biometric car seat that monitors driver wellness in real-time. The system measures stress and heart rate levels using a series of steering wheel-mounted sensors. It also employs infrared for facial and ambient temperatures, conductive sensors for heart rate (similar to exercise equipment), and seat belt-mounted piezoelectric sensors for breathing rate.

The company believes this technology can help in-car safety equipment prepare for collisions, or even block incoming calls and texts when it detects a heightened stress level. Apparently, the technology is 5-10 years out from making it into a production vehicle, though.

Designing Interiors Virtually

Ford uses virtually-rendered vehicle interiors with a VR headset during its design stage. The system allows everyone involved to get a feel, virtual though it might be, of the interior layout.

Tweaking The Engine And Exhaust Notes, Digitally

Ford puts its EcoBoost turbocharged motors in everything from the Ford Focus to the F-150. While we can certainly appreciate the sound of a turbocharger spooling up, some folks don't like turbo whine and prefer a more traditional naturally-aspirated engine tone.

Thus, company engineers use a simulator that determines the sound of the engine, along with noise, vibration, and harshness inside the cabin, using select parameters (muffled, no turbo whine, wind noise, and so on). Engine acoustics are tweaked before they're applied to actual vehicles using a series of mufflers or additional deadening material.

Ford had its simulator running on an Alienware laptop (possibly an M17x) with a pair of Sennheiser HD650 headphones, in case you're curious.

It's Vincent Chase!

Adrian Grenier (Vincent Chase on the HBO hit Entourage) was one of the panelists for the Ford Eco-psychology trend session. Mr. Grenier is co-founder of the environmentalist website SHFT.com.

Ford Focus Electric

The Ford Focus Electric was always on display during the Go Further with Ford 2012 event. The Focus Electric exchanges an engine for electric motors and batteries without sacrificing its fun-to-drive factor. We had some seat time in the Focus Electric and found the car quite enjoyable. It was almost as eager around corners as the petrol-dependent Focus.

Batteries Have To Go Somewhere

The Ford Focus Electric's batteries are located in the hatch, sacrificing a lot of trunk space. The compromise isn't too bad, though, considering this car started its life with a 2.0 L inline-four engine.

Trip Planner For Those With Electric Range Anxiety

Ford offers a Trip Planner app to help owners of electric cars stay apprised of their remaining battery power. It also shows where nearby charging stations can be found, too.

  • Please. Who would look to Ford for the future? Eco-consciousness? When a Ford can compete with a Toyota, I'll be the first one in line to buy their product. But they just aren't even in the same playing field, haven't been for the last 20 years. They're making progress, but it's just a dollar short, a day late.
    Reply
  • phate
    What rock have you been hiding under Andy? Where does Ford not compete with Toyota?
    Perhaps reliability? Oh wait....

    http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2009/10/report-ford-fusion-tops-honda-accord-toyota-camry-in-consumer-reports-reliability-ranking.html

    Technology? Ford Sync system was first on the market. Toyota's Entune system didn't show up until years later.
    Reply
  • phate - You arn't saying much when you call a brand new or relatively new (2009) car reliable...


    I think the reliability andy speaks of is the plethora of early 90's and 80's Toyota's and other japanese cars on the road you see today driving around with few reported issues. THAT is reliability, and it'll take Ford and many other american companies a solid generation to EARN that reputation. It cannot be won overnight or over the course of a few years.

    I too eagerly await the day a Ford or Chevy is as reliable in the long term as a toyota or honda.
    It would also be nice if they made a nice Tacoma sized (crew cab, the ranger is only extended cab) truck, with diesel would be even better.

    Reply
  • s3anister
    Fr3shM1ntphate - You arn't saying much when you call a brand new or relatively new (2009) car reliable...I think the reliability andy speaks of is the plethora of early 90's and 80's Toyota's and other japanese cars on the road you see today driving around with few reported issues. THAT is reliability, and it'll take Ford and many other american companies a solid generation to EARN that reputation. It cannot be won overnight or over the course of a few years.I too eagerly await the day a Ford or Chevy is as reliable in the long term as a toyota or honda.It would also be nice if they made a nice Tacoma sized (crew cab, the ranger is only extended cab) truck, with diesel would be even better.You've got to be kidding me. If it took a generation to earn an excellent reputation we'd never have truly great vehicles in the first place.

    Anyone remember the BMW E30? Mercedes-Benz 300D? Datsun 240Z? MK1/2 Ford Focus? All excellent vehicles and they were like that when the first year models came out. Get real, truly great feats of engineering shouldn't need a generation or even a year to be excellent; you either have a great vehicle, or you don't.
    Reply
  • Quite frankly, i believe the build quality of Ford cars is better than that of Toyota's at the moment. As Ford has been improving the quality of their powertrains and interior materials, Toyota has really been slacking. (look at the new fusion vs new camry)
    Reply
  • tuanies
    I'm going to stay neutral, but I'll play devil's advocate. 80's Toyota motors were reliable, the rest of the car was just as prone to rust as American cars. My dad has an '81 Toyota pickup truck with the 20R, carburetor. Always starts up the few times its needed, but the rest of the body is rusted to crap and has not held up.

    Any car you buy new now will be very reliable, in terms of drivetrain. I've had a Chevy and now a Chrysler, the Chevy only had issues from modding, but the dealer experience was lacking, the Chrysler/VW hasn't had any issues in the year we've had it and the dealership experience has been fantastic.

    However, I will say, reliability aside, its the dealership experience that keeps or drives a customer to another manufacturer. It sure soured my experience with Chevy.

    And yes I remember the E30 (my best friend runs r3vlimited), old Mercedes are awesome, love the Datsun 240Z, but do you remember the original Fairlady 1600 roadster (my friend has one with an SR20VE swapped in)? The early models Ford Focuses were great but plagued with teething issues and didn't really become great until '04 and on - still would love an SVT Focus though.

    Toyota's are boring to me, the Scion FR-S is kind of exciting, but the rest of the lineup does nothing for me. The new Ford Fusion is stunning compared to the new Camry. Ford is on a roll with a great looking line-up, but so are Kia and Hyundai. Chrysler piques my interest the most though since the Fiat turn around has been quite good considered what they were given. It'll be interesting to see what they come up with completely under Fiat's control.
    Reply
  • palladin9479
    What everyone's missing is that all modern automobiles are designed to fall apart eventually. "Reliability" has been redefined to mean how many problems within the warranted period, not how long the drive train will last. Manufacturers don't want you to driving the same car for 10 years, that's at least one car you could of bought from them if not two. Their about maximum revenue extraction and thus their products must be disposable, you must feel the need to replace them every three to four years.

    If you buy a $24,000 USD car and drive it for four years, that's a $6000 USD a year price their getting. If you drive it for 8 years then that's only $3000 their getting back. That's a 50% reduction in profits for them, not good for their business.
    Reply
  • reyshan
    palladin9479What everyone's missing is that all modern automobiles are designed to fall apart eventually. "Reliability" has been redefined to mean how many problems within the warranted period, not how long the drive train will last. Manufacturers don't want you to driving the same car for 10 years, that's at least one car you could of bought from them if not two. Their about maximum revenue extraction and thus their products must be disposable, you must feel the need to replace them every three to four years.If you buy a $24,000 USD car and drive it for four years, that's a $6000 USD a year price their getting. If you drive it for 8 years then that's only $3000 their getting back. That's a 50% reduction in profits for them, not good for their business.
    I don't think many people buy cars every 4 to 8 years. They want to make their money worth it and if that is what ford is doing now, then I'll stick to a toyota or honda.
    Reply
  • seller417
    Cars break and it doesnt matter who manufactured the car. You will pay less to repair American cars than that of foreign cars. I used to be a mechanic (years ago) and i remember having to change an alternator on a Hyundai. The alternator cost over $200 for that vehicle. The cost for a ford alternator at the time was $40. That is just the cost of the part and does not include the jacked up labor costs you pay mechanics who work on imports. Aside from repair costs, American cars are right there with foreign cars in terms of reliability and durability.
    Reply
  • wiyosaya
    seller417Cars break and it doesnt matter who manufactured the car. You will pay less to repair American cars than that of foreign cars. I used to be a mechanic (years ago) and i remember having to change an alternator on a Hyundai. The alternator cost over $200 for that vehicle. The cost for a ford alternator at the time was $40. That is just the cost of the part and does not include the jacked up labor costs you pay mechanics who work on imports. Aside from repair costs, American cars are right there with foreign cars in terms of reliability and durability.I've had a Prius for 6+ years now, and have had nothing break. Nothing! No cost for repairs there. Only standard maintenance like oil changes, etc. In addition, my wife has a Corolla that is 10 years old. It also requires only standard, inexpensive maintenance. Nothing has broken in the time she has had it.

    All I have seen coming out of Detroit is marketing designed to make people think that Detroit auto makers are actually concerned about environmental issues, like the totally silly and totally useless "Flex Fuel" emblazoned on so many vehicles these days.

    When you repaired that Hyundai, they were known for producing crap. Even though you were a mechanic, that was years ago as you admit. With time and distance from the craft, actual knowledge of it significantly decreases.

    Perhaps this article should have (Paid Advertisement) in the title.
    Reply