Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ford's Evos - Internet, Cloud Enabled Car of the Future

The new Ford Evos is a cloud-connected vehicle run on smart phone apps. Click to enlarge this image. Ford Motor Company

  • Ford is unveiling its newest concept car, the Evos, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
  • Internet-enabled, the car would communicate with smart phone apps to improve driving and safety.
Ford’s newest concept car, which it’s introducing this week at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany, will be more than a driving machine: it will be a cloud-computing device as well.

The Evos is one of the first from a major manufacturer that will store data on and retrieve it from the Internet. So-called “cloud computing” capabilities are already employed by Flickr, Facebook and Google to store photos, messages and documents on the Internet. But lately the trend has been spreading to less data-driven business — and car companies are not to be excluded.

An Internet-connected vehicle could provide benefits to its driver by accessing the Web to scan weather and traffic reports in real-time in order to suggest routes, warn of accidents ahead or even alter the suspension and handling to fit the road conditions. A rainy, wet road might require more responsive steering, for example.

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Such a car could also keep drivers safe. “We’re working with some German engineers,” said Mark Schirmer, Ford’s global product communications manager. “The car could monitor a driver’s heartbeat and see if he is stressed, and whether it’s a heart attack.” The car could then call for help. Then there are more mundane tasks like accessing an iTunes music library or Pandora Radio account.

While some of these functions can be done by a self-contained computer under the dashboard, building an Internet car can reduce the cost of design, says Jim Buczkowski, the company’s director of electrical and electronics systems research and innovation. The company can rely on industry standards, such as those for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, already present for Internet-enabled devices instead of spending money on research and development for specialized systems that are manufacturer-specific.

That also allows for driving-centered smart phone apps that interact with the car. “The signs continue to say that your phone is going to be the center of your connectivity,” Buczkowski said.
And as more cars come online, they’ll be able to speak to each other, even if they aren’t from the same manufacturer.         More