comes to meeting the strict
CAFE standards for fuel efficiency across an automaker's fleet, companies
are looking for any assistance they can get. The increasing availability of EVs
and hybrids are helping automakers to keep their larger less efficient
vehicles on the road maps for the future. But perfecting electrified
vehicles is no easy order.
I. Google Teams up With Ford
An hybrid is only as good as the algorithms controlling when its electric drive
kicks in to supplement or replace gas drive power.
Ford Motor Company (F) makes the best-selling hybrid
to date from any American manufacturer (the Ford
Fusion Hybrid). Later this year, it will release its first battery
electric vehicle (BEV), the 2012 Ford Focus Electric.
In the interest of optimizing the performance of its electrified fleet, Ford is
teaming up with internet and smartphone giant Google Inc. (GOOG). Ford will use the
Prediction API to custom-tailor your vehicle to your common driving routes,
in order to offer optimal performance.
In an interview with DailyTech, Jóhannes Kristinsson, the
systems architect of Ford's Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design
team, comments that the new project differs from Ford's ongoing collaborations
with university research teams to study traffic patterns.
The Predictive API will be exclusively focused on the driver, logging and
analyzing their driving history (sort of auto equivalent of your web browsing
history). In that regard, it is oblivious to traffic. By studying a
user's driving patterns, the system tries to "predict where the driver is
going and then optimize the upcoming trip with respect to electric driving
For now, though, the algorithm focuses on a single driver's behavior.
Data is collected remotely and transferred to dedicated server hardware
as the history logging and route analysis is quite intensive, in terms of
storage and processing power. Data sent to the cloud would be made
anonymous to protect users' privacy.
At a later time, information from multiple users in an area could possibly be
compiled to form better route-specific programs, allowing a user to get
semi-optimized performance for routes they haven't personally driven before.
Describes Mr. Kristinsson, "The focus of this research is how we can make
the vehicle perform better for the drivers personal driving habits. In a
plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, there are both a traditional engine, and an
electrical motor connected to a large battery which can be charged from the
grid. The vehicle needs, at all times, to determine which of these to use at
any time in order to meet the drivers demands and deliver great
"If we can predict where the vehicle is going, and confirm this with the
driver we can save electrical energy for upcoming occasions, or
"electrical zones" in this case, in order to give the driver a great
driving experience for all portions of the route."
Mr. Kristinsson confirms that the hardware and software Ford is developing
could eventually find its way into consumer vehicles. But he makes it clear
not to expect to see it in consumer models for a little while.
"This is a Research project at Ford with many different objectives. Not
only do we want to prove that the technology works, we also need to figure out
how to integrate these new features in a seamless way with the rest of the
vehicle as well as understand how to handle safety, security and privacy of
personal information, something that is of utmost importance for us,"
stated Mr. Kristinsson, "That said, we do think that this kind of technology
could be mature enough to be introduced in consumer vehicles in 4-8
Ford is still trying to work out the exact logistics of the deployment, but it
seems clear that the company's internal test fleet of battery electric vehicles
and hybrid electric vehicles will be involved.
Mr. Kristinsson comments, "As availability of electric and plug-in hybrid
electric vehicles are limited at this time, we are investigating other ways of
collecting the behavioral data we need. This involves installing data loggers
in conventional vehicles for a select set of users, and then transfer this data
to our prototype plug-in hybrids. We are also investigating using data from
other sources available for us. It is yet too early to say how we should roll
out a larger test, but we do want to make sure we are covering all sort of
drivers to reflect the multitude of our customers."
III. Ford -- Back to the Cloud
This won't be the first cloud service that Ford offers, it already offer cloud
services through Sync.
So far, those services have been strictly for infotainment
and navigation. This would be the first cloud service by Ford that can
directly control vehicle settings. This could help vehicles like the Focus
Electric optimize themselves for the destination with little driver
Current generation Ford vehicles lack a built-in 3G modem. Instead, they
connect to the cloud via devices like wireless-enabled smartphones or tablets.
As prices drop, Ford is expected to install wireless modems in its fleet.
These devices would not only improve the performance of Sync/MyFord
Touch by allowing remote updates and upgrades, but could also be employed
in more advanced assignments -- like the aforementioned predictive electric
quote: If you don't want to make your own driving choices, ride a bus.