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.