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Google and Ford Team Up to Customize Driving Experience

Posted: May 12, 2011 10:22 a.m.

Imagine owning a car that will ask you were you’re headed and optimize your powertrain to minimize the amount of energy you’ll use to get there. Such technology is a strong possibility, as Google and Ford are teaming up to produce cars that can predict a driver’s behavior to maximize energy consumption.

Ford says it will rely on “Google Prediction API, which provides greater computation power, information storage and external data through cloud computing,” to develop this technology because it “can convert historical driving data – the where and when you drive – into useful real-time predictors.” Ideally, Google Prediction API will customize driving experiences based on “captured data.” According to CNET, companies currently use Google Prediction API to recommend products, and email servers use it to filter spam. Ford wants to take it one step further.

This tool is still in development and production stages. According to the New York Times, “the system as currently imagined would interact best with a plug-in hybrid like the prototype Ford Escape that Ryan McGee, a Ford technical expert, said his team was developing.” But, if this system is available to consumers at a reasonable price, its impact on the energy we use could be monumental because the program will interact with the driver. Ford describes the process. “After a vehicle owner opts in to use the service, an encrypted driver data usage profile is built based on routes and time of travel. In essence, the system learns key information about how the driver is using the vehicle.” Then, Google Prediction API, which can track driving patterns based on route and time, will use driving information to tailor performance to an individual’s driving habits and destination.

For example, when an individual starts his or her car, Google Prediction API will ask the driver, “Good morning, are you going to work?” If that’s the case, Google Prediction will assess the trip and calculate how to customize the powertrain to maximize efficiency. Ford adds, “A predicted route of travel could include an area restricted to electric-only driving. Therefore, the plug-in hybrid could program itself to optimize energy usage over the total distance of the route in order to preserve enough battery power to switch to all-electric mode when traveling within the EV-only zone.”

In order to store massive quantities of driver information, Ford will use cloud computing – remote servers that allow the information to be accessed from anywhere. Ford already uses cloud computing for its SYNC system.

This technology is exciting, but it won’t be available on the mass market anytime soon. The New York Times says Ford has been working on the project for the past two years, and that the automaker’s “collaboration with Google started late last year, and is still in a research phase.” It could take another four to eight years for this system to be ready for production.

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