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Clouds on wheels: making cars smarter, more connected

Six proposals out of the University of Michigan introduce networked approaches to achieve more efficient driving.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

Talk about the ultimate convergence of mobile and cloud computing.

As part of a project initiated by Ford Motor Company, students at the University of Michigan developed a series of experimental apps that combine social networks, GPS location awareness, and real-time vehicle data in ways that help drivers get where they want to go efficiently.

Using technology and development tools provided by Ford, Microsoft and Intel, along with a crash course in vehicle interface design provided by Ford engineers, the six teams of students crafted these visions for the future:

  • Caravan Track enables clusters of vehicles traveling together to track each other along the journey.
  • Fuel Tracker provides drivers with real-time feedback about fuel economy and driving habits based on past drivers on a specific route.
  • The GreenRide Challenge provides a collaborative ride-sharing system, attempting to connect drivers with potential carpool passengers in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Listen. Speak. Rate. Share. provides users with in-car audio reviews for various points of interest, and also allows drivers to share their thoughts on visited locations, connecting through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites.
  • NostraMap collects data about road and traffic conditions, giving drivers advance notice about accidents, construction, poor surfaces and other hazards.
  • Points-of-Interest uses a dynamic recommendation system to point drivers toward locations and businesses that match their interests but that they may not have otherwise visited.

Most 2010 Ford vehicles are already equipped with a cloud feature called Ford SYNC, through which they can can visit www.syncmyride.com and download and install the latest application – Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI). SYNC TDI connects a customer’s Bluetooth-enabled cell phone to Ford’s Service Delivery Network voice portal delivering turn-by-turn driving directions, real-time traffic, business searches and favorite news, sports and weather – through voice commands. Ford says “eligible customers can download this latest SYNC application similar to the way they would download a song from an online media store such as Apple’s iTunes.”

The singularity is near… for autos.  It’s getting to the point where we are actually buying computers that happen to have wheels and even generate their own electricity.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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