Ford Airs Cloud-Connect Gull-Wing PHEV Concept, College Rental Deal
September 2, 2011 8:53 AM
Ford is partnering up with Zipcar to deploy 2012 Ford Focus and 2012 Ford Explorers for rental on U.S. college campuses.
(Source: Kelvin Ma, Bloomberg News)
The Ford Evos Concept
Company looks to remain on the cutting edge of in-car technology and grow its brand
It was a busy week for Ford Motor Company (
) at the
technology show in Berlin, Germany. The company late Wednesday made two major announcements public.
I. Ford Targets College Rental Market With Zipcar Deal
The first announcement dealt with a new deal with Zipcar, Inc. (
), the world's leading car sharing network. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of car sharing, it's a business model that first appeared in urban areas where people without cars will rent one for short amounts of time. This differs a bit from the traditional car rental model, which focuses on rentals by number of days, not number of hours.
Back to the deal, Ford is teaming up with Zipcar to become the primary supplier of rental vehicles to locations in the company's University program. The deal begins this week with Ford shipping
2012 Ford Focus
and the 2012 Ford Escape vehicles to these locations. Ford says it plans to add 650 vehicles to Zipcar's fleet this academic year, and up to 1,000 over the life of the deal.
Zipcar currently has a bit over 8,000 vehicles so that's approximately a 10-12 percent increase from current levels.
II. Meet the Evos
In addition to the Zipcar news, Ford was showing off a slick new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) concept sports sedan dubbed the "Evos". The car was unveiled at the nearby
Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung 2011
(IAA), better known by its English name -- the Frankfurt Auto Show.
The Evos showcases some of Ford's developing
"smart mode" hybrid electric vehicle technologies
, which predict common routes and combine them with current vehicle information to adjust performance to deliver the best fuel economy. The vehicle uses the cloud-based Google API, which we covered back in May. It now can assess weather conditions and factor that into its driving decisions.
The car also has a smart health seat that monitors driver physical workload and adjusts in-vehicle services automatically. For example, if the driver is overly stressed, the car might pre-brake when approaching other vehicles or turn the volume down slightly on the radio to minimize distraction. Ford showed us this technology at their
MyFord Touch health-related event
One item not previously discussed, though, is that the smart health seat is now capable of sending collected data to the cloud, for predictive adjustments based on driving history. While this sounds a bit scary from a privacy perspective, it could provide a more pleasant driving experience for willing customers.
To top off the cloud-driven experience, the car streams music and news into the car based on what you watch/listen to in your home. Cloud-based software identifies your tastes and adjusts the in-car stream accordingly.
For example, if you always
, it will play similar news station -- or even grab podcasts directly from
. Or maybe you like
-- it would send you that instead. Or maybe you think American news in general is too partisan and you like to get an international perspective -- it might stream you some sweet
The vehicle itself is pretty slick. In the front (though not so much in the back) it looks somewhat similar in styling to the
SLS electric vehicle super-car
showed off by Daimer AG's (
) Mercedes-Benz. And that's not a bad thing.
It sports four gull-wing doors. The cockpit looks quite distinctive, taking Ford's infotainment systems and extending them with a futuristic look.
As with all concepts, there's always a shred of hope that it could
one day see production
, albeit in a somewhat altered form.
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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