• May 10, 2011


Android developers across the world have descended on San Francisco for this week's Google I/O conference, and Ford is getting in on the action with its announcement to utilize Google's new Prediction API to increase efficiency and decrease commute times.

The Prediction API has a range of location-based uses, but Ford's plan involves tapping into your driving habits, gathering historical commute and errand data, and then optimize your route depending on traffic, weather and a host of other information.

Cutting down commute times and increasing fuel efficiency are at the top of the list, but it's obvious Ford is primarily planning to use the tech for its future all-electric and plug-in hybrid-driving vehicles. By determining drive routes ahead of time, storing that information in the cloud and directing drivers to the most efficient roads, Ford can eliminate some of the range anxiety EV drivers have to contend with.

Tomorrow, a group of Ford researchers will be showing off concept version of the system at Google I/O, complete with a prototype use case that involves the driver opting in for the service (Ford is adamant that personal information security is of the utmost importance) and then utilizing the Google Prediction service to determine the most efficient route. The vehicle would ask the driver, "Good morning. Are you going to work?" and if the driver responds, "Yes," the system will choose a route that's optimized for the powertrain. This could also include EV-only zones, something that's being experimented with throughout Europe.

We'll have more on Ford's implementation of the Predictive API tomorrow, but in the meantime, check out the press release after the jump for more.
Show full PR text
Ford Developers Look to Use Google Prediction API to Optimize Energy Efficiency; Research Presented at Google I/O
  • Ford is leveraging Google's Prediction API to advance ongoing research in predicting driver behavior to help optimize vehicle control systems and improve vehicle performance attributes such as fuel or hybrid-electric efficiency
  • The Google Prediction API, which provides greater computation power, information storage and external data through cloud computing, can convert historical driving data – the where and when you drive – into useful real-time predictors
  • Ford envisions the capability to empower vehicles to offer drivers smart guidance based on learned behaviors and a variety of captured data

SAN FRANCISCO, May 10, 2011 – Ford researchers are harnessing the power of cloud computing, analytics and Google innovation to identify technologies that could make tomorrow's vehicles smart enough to independently change how they perform to deliver optimal driveability and fuel efficiency.

Ford researchers are applying Google's Prediction API to more than two years of their own predictive driver behavior research and analysis. The Google API can convert information such as historical driving data – where a driver has traveled and at what time of day for example – into useful real-time predictions, such as where a driver is headed at the time of departure.

"The Google Prediction API allows us to utilize information that an individual driver creates over time and make that information actionable," said Ryan McGee, technical expert, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation. "Between Google Prediction and our own research, we are discovering ways to make information work for the driver and help deliver optimal vehicle performance."

How it works
Ford is hoping to use these types of cloud-stored data to enable a vehicle essentially to optimize itself and perform in the best manner determined by a predicted route.

This week, Ford researchers are presenting a conceptual case of how the Google Prediction API could alter the performance of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the 2011 Google I/O developer conference. In this theoretical situation, here's how the technology could work:

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
Upon starting the vehicle, Google Prediction will use historical driving behavior to evaluate given the current time of day and location to develop a prediction of the most likely destination and how to optimize driving performance to and from that location
An on-board computer might say, "Good morning, are you going to work?" If the driver is in fact going to work, the response would be, "Yes," and then an optimized powertrain control strategy would be created for the trip. 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
"Once the destination is confirmed, the vehicle would have instant access to a variety of real-time information so it can optimize its performance, even against factors that the driver may not be aware of, such as an EV-only zone," said McGee.

Because of the large amount of computing power necessary to make the predictions and optimizations, an off-board system that connects through the cloud is currently necessary.

What's next
Knowing that driver behavior and patterns correlate to overall fuel and energy efficiency during the vehicle ownership experience, Ford researchers are committed to increasing their understanding of driver behavior behind the wheel and to developing accurate protocols to predict it.

"Anticipating the driver's destination is just one way that Ford is investigating predicting driver behavior," said McGee. "This information can ultimately be used to optimize vehicle performance attributes such as fuel efficiency and driveability."

The Google Prediction API is one example of a technology that is helping Ford open doors to new predictive possibilities powered by the cloud.

"Ford already offers cloud-based services through Ford SYNC®, but those services thus far have been used for infotainment, navigation and real-time traffic purposes to empower the driver," said Johannes Kristinsson, system architect, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation. "This technology has the potential to empower our vehicles to anticipate the driver's needs."

Helping drivers comply with regulations could be among those needs. For example, the French government is considering creating zones that would mandate vehicles have lower emissions. Cities such as London, Berlin, and Stockholm already have such zones. If a vehicle were able to predict exactly when it might be entering such a zone, it could optimize itself in a way to comply with regulations, such as switching the engine to all-electric mode.

Work is now underway to study the feasibility of incorporating other variables such as driver style and habits into the optimization process so Ford can further optimize vehicle control systems, allowing car and driver to work together to maximize energy efficiency.

Integral to this next-step work is personal information security, an issue that is of the utmost importance to Ford. "We realize that the nature of this research includes the use of personal data and location awareness, something we are committed to protecting for our customers in everything we do," notes Kristinsson. "A key component of this project is looking at how to develop secure personal profiles that will ensure appropriate levels of protection and specific data use only by the driver and the vehicle to deliver the best driving experience.

"It's about pure customer benefit and creating individualized and optimized experiences – the right one for each person, vehicle and situation."


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 42 Comments
      nolimit092
      • 3 Years Ago
      Nothing I love more than having to give up more of my privacy. So now Ford/Google get to plan my route to work based on my habits... How long before that information gets sold to advertisers so they know where to put up billboards or how long until Google starts charging businesses for Google to route more cars by their place of business. I know enough about traffic patterns in this area that I think I can find my own way to work.
      Horia-Ionut Baciu
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't want my car to ask me s@#&.
        creamwobbly
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Horia-Ionut Baciu
        I agree. If I'm going to work, I'll find ways to optimize my performance depending on how late I am. So, if I'm not very late, or there's nothing pressing, I'll trundle along slowly. But if I need to be at the meeting for 8am (dammit) then I'm going to put my foot down. So, the stupid thing should look at the time, decide I'm probably going to work, and decide whether or not I'm late before it opens its damned speech synthesis library: "Where's the 'Late For Work' button?" "On the floor, under your right foot, idiot." "STFU" "You STFU!" Like that.
      v6sonoma
      • 3 Years Ago
      Car: "Where are you going today?" Me:"Work." Car:"Okay. Let me make your commute slower and even more agonizing." Me:"Grrrrrrr..."
      Civic_SI
      • 3 Years Ago
      And no, I'm not "anti-Detroit", but I realize American nameplates suck at making small cars, and are average at best with mid-size cars. Need a truck or a full sizer? Need to tow a trailer? Sure, go domestic, but if you need a compact, you have to go with the imports every time.
        Mr. Z
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Civic_SI
        execpt if you want something with some life in it, all Japanese cars are just glorified refrigerators, I would rather have a Focus or an Elantra over any Honda/Toyota product. Might as well be called Whirlpool - Civic, or Fridgedare - Coralla....
          Ferris Macau
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Mr. Z
          True, but these 'appliances' are bread and butter and keeps everyone employed. Toyota/Honda will never build a Chevy SSR or a 8000 lb Hummer H2, or a 500 HP Camaro unless they want to file Chapter 11.
          Mr. Z
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Mr. Z
          True but you will never see a 16 year old boy have a poster of a Honda Civic or Toyota Sienna, on his wall. While its more then likely to have a Mustang or SVT Raptor. Plus if he wants a bland car, anyone could get a Korean car, they are cheaper, and more fun to drive.
        Ferris Macau
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Civic_SI
        Thats the reason Chevy keeps changing models names like Vega, Cavalier, cobalt, cruze yadayada its better for the public to forget this dreadful machines and 'start' with a new model, meanwhile Civic name is 40 years strong Accord 35 years.
          Civic_SI
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ferris Macau
          Exactly! Same with the Ford Pinto...I mean Escort...er...Contour...ah yeah that's right, Focus! Or the Fiesta-Festiva-Aspire-Fiesta shell game with their subcompact.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Civic_SI
        [blocked]
          Civic_SI
          • 3 Years Ago
          I heard the same bombast and bravado when the Citation and Escort came out. Thirty years later, and nothing has changed. You think two companies from a dying city that just went Chapter 11 (and would have been bought for scrap money by the Mainland Chinese if not for taxpayer dollars), and another company that had a near-Chapter 11 experience, would be a little more humble.
        Xedicon
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Civic_SI
        Well I'm glad that you're not 100% anti-Detroit, and I do confess they certainly have their weak spots, but the claim that none of the "Big 3" make a good compact simply isn't true. An easy case in point is the new Fiesta, and the new Focus if you're willing to call it a compact, but it is a size category below mid size at least. The Cruze just hit, and from what I've seen so far the reception has been good. When I was at the Chevy dealer near me getting an oil change I checked it out - it's a heck of a lot of car for the dollar, and can get great fuel economy (I confess I haven't actually driven one). Chrysler got bailed out from the Crapiber failure with the Fiat 500 so I'll give you that - but I'm still happy to see it on our shores. The "average with mid size cars" isn't true either - the Fusion is an award winning car (Motor Trend Car of the Year 2010 for example) and I've driven several different trims of the Fusion. I'm not generally a Ford fan, and mid size sedans are one of my least favorite types of vehicles to drive, BUT - the Fusion is a great drive. It's not perfect, but it very well may be the best mid size I've driven (performance sedans excluded). Another example of a good mid size American you see everywhere? Caddy CTS. Sadly Chrysler is still behind in mid-size, but it's clear a very serious and contending offerer is on the way very soon, especially with the work they've done on the 200 and the big 300 with all the huge improvements put into those vehicles. It's great to be a fan of a company and enjoy their products, but just make sure to give credit where credit is due. :)
        Dr. Claw
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Civic_SI
        That may have been true in the past, however the new batch of American compacts (well, Ford and Chevy) are focused less on being "cheap" and more on being substantial cars. Meanwhile, in the USA market, the Japanese competition seems content on being rather bland in this segment. When the coolest and most practical car in the bunch is the Honda Fit, something is very wrong. The Koreans on the other hand, I'll have to give some credit for putting some effort in the fight. Now for years, I have derided American "compacts" for being crap. Even recently, with the '08-11 Focus being a frequent target of my disdain. But those days seem to be coming to an end, even if it took dire straits to bring them there. This comment is way off-base. The Japanese have set the benchmark for this segment, but the proud Civic has followed the Corolla in being competely bland. I might feel differently if Honda would somehow wedge in a proper 3-door Civic -- that car looks 10x better in Europe than it does here in those bland sedan and coupe body styles.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Civic_SI
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm sure it will have the reliability of a Fiesta transmission combined with the user friendliness of Ford MyTouch.
        Synthono
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Civic_SI
        A wild fanboy appears! Besides, if you're having problems with a Fiesta's transmission, you've bought the wrong one. Manuals for life.
          Civic_SI
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Synthono
          There's zero excuse for screwing up a new automatic that badly in 2011. "Go with the manual!" is dumb advice since 90% of the population buys the automatic. Tell that to the average customer and they'll curse you out.
      lalasd
      • 3 Years Ago
      Um google ever hear of the big M button? I hit that every time i get in my car to well optimize it.
        Healthy Chap
        • 3 Years Ago
        @lalasd
        You'll still never be as precise and optimized as a computer.
          Mike Pulsifer
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Healthy Chap
          Yet this scheme will optimize the car for "boring" and "get me to my train late."
          Civic_SI
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Healthy Chap
          Those of us who have real driving skills don't need a computer, thanks. Those of you who want a computer to drive you should be taking the subway or the bus.
          Civic_SI
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Healthy Chap
          Not to mention this computer will come from the people who gave us exploding Pintos, Explorer roll-over deathraps, and most recently, Fiesta dual clutch transmissions that are failing with less than 1,000 miles on them. No thanks.
          Mr. Z
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Healthy Chap
          Those who have real driving skills, well drive great driving cars, rather then appliances like the Civic has been since the late 1990's
      Brett Bertrand
      • 3 Years Ago
      Google is EVERYWHERE. They want to be in our cars, our homes, be our smartphone and tablets of choice, and control the interwebs. I'm a little sick of Google.
        Civic_SI
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Brett Bertrand
        Though I'm a much bigger fan of Apple I have to give Google credit for standing up to the Chinese government and their disgusting censorship, unlike Yahooo! and now Facebook who will gladly grab the ankles and bend over for authoritarianism and unfair trade practices (like being forced to set up "joint ventures" where the Chinese will steal their tech) if it means a quick short-term buck.
      ALafya
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yeah, they should also dump Sync in favor of Android car OS. That would make their integration with phones much more useful and allow free use of Google navigation and any Android app.
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am happy to see that the more car-orientated folks on AB are more suspicious of this technology than the guys over at Engadget who seem to be drooling over technology that for the most part has been available for well over a decade now. This system will supposedly "optimize" your car's performance, but really how much more are they going to do than the Sport/Economy/Auto selectable modes that some cars have already? I mean is it really THAT hard to push the ECO button when commuting to work, and maybe hitting SPORT when taking the car out for a Sunday cruise up in the mountains? Does everything need to be voice activated now a days? But even beyond that, most of the times, those selectable modes offered only minor advantages which would lead most folks to just leave it in AUTO. In terms of the traffic issue, I can't see how that will be any different than simply whipping out your smartphone, loading up Google Maps and turning on Traffic Info. So basically this is less new news, and more just marketing gimmicks.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Ferris Macau
      • 3 Years Ago
      The beginnings of Skynet.
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