Ford evaluates in-car cloud computing apps

Students at the University of Michigan, with the help of Ford, have created a series of applications designed to be used in a car.

The experimental apps form part of a larger Ford initiative called American Journey 2.0, a joint open innovation research project involving Microsoft and Intel.

The applications are based on Ford’s developmental application platform, built on Windows 7 and Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio and dubbed ‘Fiestaware’ – and the companies say similar ideas could make it into production.

“Already, we have proven that we can access information in the cloud,” said Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader of the Infotronics team in Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.

“This project gives us the opportunity to harness the power of student innovation to explore beyond current capabilities and develop what’s next. We provided these students with the tools to innovate, and in approximately 100 days they created fun, unique and really useful results.”

Caravan Track was judged the best app, and will be installed in a Ford Fiesta research vehicle, outfitted with prototype software running on a Windows 7 PC.

It allows clusters of vehicles traveling together to track each other as they go. After identifying a route on a main website, users can join to see fellow travelers; view vehicle telemetry including fuel level and speed; track each vehicle; map routes; send alerts about stops along the way and send text notifications about road conditions.

Another app, Fuel Tracker, provides drivers with real-time feedback about fuel economy and driving habits based on past drivers on a specific route. App users upload their results for different road segments, allowing them to compare details.

Others include Facebook-based GreenRide Challenge, which provides a collaborative ride-sharing system, and Listen. Speak. Rate. Share. provides in-car audio reviews for points of interest, and also allows drivers to share their thoughts on locations.