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AJ the Fiesta is on a road trip across the U.S.

Ford and the University of Michigan teamed up to create all sorts of Windows 7 powered auto apps. The apps could eventually be ported to the smart phone an interface with SYNC.
Students and the University of Michigan showcases possibilities to come

Ford's upcoming gasoline North American 2011 Ford Fiesta is garnering a lot of attention.  The vehicle just was EPA certified at 40 mpg highway and 29 mpg city.  While that pales in comparison to the 65 miles per U.S. gallon that the European 1.6 Duratorq TDCi engine variant gets, it's still impressive gas mileage for a traditional gas engine. 

To help further plug the vehicle and demonstrate the future of the SYNC in-car infotainment platform Ford has partnered with engineering and design students at The University of Michigan to engage in a one-of-a-kind road trip.

DailyTech received a firsthand look at the project last week at a special presentation at Ford's Research and Development headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.

The collaboration takes two 2011 Ford Fiesta vehicles from Michigan to California traveling through the heart of the U.S. on their way.  The Ford-themed vehicle is nicknamed AJ -- named after the name of the project "American Journey".

AJ features a futuristic version of SYNC powered by a Dell Studio series PC, Sprint wireless internet (2 antennas), and Windows 7.  AJ can handle things like Skype calls, Facebook, navigation needs, and more.  “He” even has "moods";  when braking and stuck in traffic AJ gets sad, but when zipping around windy corners, AJ becomes joyful.  AJ's emotions are shown via an emoticon.

The vehicles also feature the winning app design of 6 student-submitted apps, running in Windows 7.  The app was built using the Fiestaware APIs and Microsoft Robotics Studio, which expose vehicle information to app developers. 

The winning app was the "Caravan" app that allows multiple vehicles roadtripping together to communicate with each other.  The app communicates with a U of M server and shares information on the speed, fuel levels, and food/gas stop plans of vehicles in your caravan.  It also has a number of canned text messages like "Slow down, I just saw a cop!" that can be sent safely using the touch screen.

The apps were written in C#.  The idea, according to Microsoft and Ford would be eventually to port apps like this to the SYNC platform or sell them independently as SYNC-enabled smart phone apps on platforms like Google's Android.

Other student submitted app designs included two points of interest apps (one using FourSquare, another using web submissions); a crowd-sourcing app to detect accidents and slowdowns; a fuel-economy promoting app that shows your economy on a particular road versus drivers of comparable vehicles; and finally an app that allows you to record voice reviews of restaurants you stopped at.

These apps fulfill Ford's goal of getting people to return to tinkering with their cars.  Ford says that as cars have become more advanced, people in general have moved away from modifying and personalizing their vehicles.

Ford Infotronics Research & Advanced Engineering group and technical team leader Venkatesh Prasad stated in a presentation, "There are 1 billion registered cars, trucks, and buses in the world.  There are 254 million in the U.S... What we're trying to do is introduce this opportunity for us to come back as tinkerers."

AJ and his U of M decorated wing-man currently flexed their 4G muscle in Chicago, cruised through the American heartland, and are currently in Utah.  You can track the road trip on the websites AmericanJourney2.com or AJFiesta.com.  They will finish their trip at the Maker Faïre show in California.



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Buying someone else.
By Mitch101 on 5/18/2010 11:24:13 AM , Rating: 2
Ford is finally starting to make some nice cars and apparently moving them off the showroom floors but this really has just made the sales people more arrogant than ever. Ive been trying to buy a ford vehicle for months but the sales people are trying to nickle and dime me the whole way. If they cant make it on the car they are finding other ways to tack on fees. One is every trying to add a $599.00 finders fee the whole process of buying a car from Ford a nightmare. They act as if there are no choices to their cars as if the rest of the market no longer exists because they do have cars people want. I know as I walk out the door another person walks in to buy one and thats the apparent attitude they are portraying lately. Well if you wont pay this price for the car someone else will. I did more than my share of research into the car and its price and Im offering to pay what is the average cost the car is selling for however every Ford dealer near me is trying to add on hidden fees like the $599.00 finders fee. Technically they were calling it something else to blend as some sort of service charge most people wouldnt question but when I questioned it I basically found it was a finders fee. They were willing to drop it to $399.00 however I still find that ridiculous. Punch it into the computer and it will show you where to get it. Not my fault you dont have it in stock you can always order it and I can wait.

It looks as if I'm going to get a Nissan Altima over the Ford Fusion thanks to Ford Sales agents playing games. The people at Nissan arent jerking me around like Ford is.




RE: Buying someone else.
By GruntboyX on 5/18/2010 11:56:35 AM , Rating: 2
Its supply and demand. Because Ford's vehicles are in high demand the buyer has lost some negotiating power. This is nothing new. They are willing to give you "your deal" but then eat up the savings in fees and higher apr. This is normal. Toyota and Honda did the same thing when their products were in high demand. Also, I would say its a function of the dealer you are dealing with. The small town dealer I interface with was straight forward and said they wouldnt come down on price, because of the demand, and was honest upfront. They laid out all the terms in plain sight and explained everything. I would say find a better dealer, or get over it. This is business.

Secondly...it costs money to deliver the car. they have to ship it or drive it and the 599 finder fee is very standard. this recovers the delivery charge. Just about everyone does this. there is more to it than just punching it into the computer. Also they half to compensate the dealer whose inventory they are taking, robbing them of a potential sale.

Other dealers are hurting for business, they are absorbing this fee, as part of your deal. But more than likely, the Ford place gave you the best bottom line deal, and then had to recoupe the delivery costs

How dare they make money!


RE: Buying someone else.
By Mitch101 on 5/18/2010 4:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
I wish they would be more upfront and just say they cannot come down but they aren't doing that. Since I mentioned my current car has 180K miles on it I'm assuming they think im desperate and need a car. My car is running very well and could very well go to 200k without needing anything.

The $599 is not the delivery charge though. I wrote down what it was at home they have some funky name for it. There was a dealership in South Carolina that was sued for such a charge but the court upheld it. Its basically a way for dealers to slip in an additional backend charge to make it look like your getting a good price on the car with this hidden charge.

The ford dealers haven't given me any solid prices yet.

I'm for them making money but you dont need a multi million dollar showroom and 500.00 suits to sell a car.


RE: Buying someone else.
By tng on 5/18/2010 3:14:33 PM , Rating: 2
Reminds me of the guy who wrote in to Car and Driver about trying to buy an Acura NSX when they first came out.

The Acura dealership was not used to selling a high end $60K sports car and would not even let the guy sit in it until he had given them all of his banking info. Test drive? That was out of the question.

He left, drove a mile down the same street to a Ferrari dealer where he was greeted warmly given bottled water and they offered up a car for a test drive after he showed them his drivers license.

He paid $125K for a Ferrari that afternoon, drove it back to the Acura dealer and informed them on just what they had done to loose what was basically a cash sale, where all he wanted was to sit in the vehicle and test drive it.

Honda is the one that ticks me off. When some new high demand product hits the showroom floor they tack on a huge markup. They used to make a Hybrid Accord, but never sold many because the markup drove many people to buy the Hybrid Camry instead.


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