Ford kicks off intelligent vehicle tour, as Toyota announces in-car social network for 2012

Ford kicks off intelligent vehicle tour, as Toyota announces in-car social network for 2012

Ford kicked off a California tour of its intelligent vehicle technologies with a demo day at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Ford has doubled its research investment in its intelligent vehicle work in the hopes of creating cars that can wirelessly talk to each other to reduce crashes and the billions of gallons of gas wasted in congestion each year. As part of the initiative, Ford is partnering with other automakers, the federal government, and local and county road commissions to create a common language for vehicles and a common communication standard. In Los Angeles, a panel of auto industry, transportation, and technology experts experienced the Ford vehicles that use Wi-Fi and GPS to communicate wirelessly. “We are not far from the day when vehicles will operate like mobile devices with four wheels, constantly exchanging information and communicating with our environment to do things like shorten commute times, improve fuel economy, and generally help us more easily navigate life on the road,” said Paul Mascarenas, vice president of Ford Research and Innovation.

In Germany, Ford engineers unveiled a car seat that can monitor a driver’s heartbeat. A joint project with RWTH Aachen University, the seat uses six special embedded sensors to detect electrical impulses generated by the heart. Engineers envision the seat as a way to monitor drivers with known heart conditions and diagnose new conditions via onboard computer software. The solution is the latest addition to Ford’s portfolio of possible in-car health and wellness solutions.

Toyota announced Toyota Friend, a private social network for Toyota customers that will provide a variety of product and service information as well as essential maintenance tips. If an electric vehicle is running low on battery power, for instance, Toyota Friend would notify the driver to re-charge in the form of a “tweet”-like alert. Toyota has partnered with to create the network, which will be powered by Salesforce Chatter, a private social network for businesses. Toyota Friend will first be offered in Japan with Toyota’s EVs and plug-in hybrids due in 2012.

Toyota also added a feature to its onboard navigation systems that monitors vehicle direction on highways, toll roads, turn-offs, and junctions and provides on-screen and voice alerts when drivers are headed the wrong way. The function was made possible by advances in map-updating technology and position-recognition technology that uses information from GPS, gyro1, and vehicle-speed sensors to determine accurate vehicle movement. It will be incorporated into navigation systems available as dealer-installed options in Japan from June 1.

Pioneer Electronics released AppRadio, an aftermarket car stereo that harnesses the processing power, storage capacity, network connectivity, and apps of the iPhone and iPod touch. AppRadio features a touchscreen that responds to touch and motion gestures similar to many of today’s popular smartphones, but in a larger 6.1-inch screen designed specifically for safer in-vehicle operation. For safety and convenience, AppRadio features built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling and an input for an optional vehicle-mounted, rear-facing back-up camera.

Peer-to-peer car sharing service Getaround introduced the Getaround Carkit, a device that enables car owners to safely and easily share their cars and generate rental income in return. The Getaround Carkit combines GPS, Wi-Fi, and keyless remote technology to allow safe and simple sharing of cars. In tandem with its Carkit, Getaround announced the release of its new iPhone app and an agreement with insurance giant Berkshire Hathaway to provide premium insurance coverage on every Getaround rental.

NNG, developer of the iGO primo navigation software, and Blaupunkt, a leading brand for quality and innovative car radios, jointly announced the New York 800 aftermarket infotainment unit with navigation and communication functions. The iGO primo software on the unit comes with the maps of 43 European countries, 27 languages for navigation, and text-to-speech functionality in 11 languages. The New York 800 also offers a diversified range of entertainment options with connectivity for all types of portable media, including iPhone and iPod.

TomTom expanded its GO portfolio of PNDs with the launch of the TomTom GO LIVE 800 series. The 800 series comes equipped with a year of LIVE services, including TomTom's HD Traffic service, which delivers accurate traffic information every two minutes to the device. The LIVE Services bundle also includes TomTom’s Speed Cameras service, which provides mobile and fixed speed camera alerts, and Local Search, which helps pinpoint shops and businesses in the area. The TomTom GO LIVE 820 Europe version costs €229.

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

For the latest trends in telematics, join the sector’s other key players at Telematics Detroit 2011 in Novi, MI on June 8 and 9.


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