AutoAcademics may have officially crossed over to the technology side of journalism. Not because we’re techies (even though some of us are), but because of cars, themselves. Automakers are now as invested in software and technology as companies such as Apple and Microsoft when it comes to the products that they create. Everything from bio-metrics and entertainment to remote control and autonomous capabilities are being developed. Ford wanted to share some of its new discoveries with us, so it flew AutoAcademics out to sunny, at least during our visit, San Francisco, CA, where we were given the opportunity to experience some of the company’s latest technology.
Raj Nair, Group Vice President, Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer for Ford, shared some of the technical highlights that might be available in future Ford vehicles. Among other things, his presentation included Enhanced Active Park Assist, Pro Trailer Backup Assist, and Remote Parking Assist. All of these are active vehicular technologies and each was on display for us to experience and test out for ourselves. See video below for a more in-depth look.
While some of the technologies, such as the remote parking, are still just tech demos used to show the direction that Ford is heading toward, others are very close to implementation on production vehicles. As for the present or at least very near future, Ford has been developing apps for wearable tech, such as your smartwatches, that allow you to monitor and interact with the driving range, charge management and parking location of your plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles. There is also a new version of SYNC, called SYNC 3, that was recently launched in the 2016 Escape and will be coming soon to a Fiesta, F150, Mustang, and Transit near you. See SYNC 3 demonstration video below.
Ford also shared some of its behind the scenes technology that assist in bringing new vehicles to the market. Renewable materials have been used for a number of years now, as Ford has been experimenting with rice hulls, soy beans, wheat straw, cellulose, and natural rubber to make everything from seat cushions, head restraints, and headliners in the Mustang to consoles in the Lincoln MKX to electrical harness brackets in the F150. Not only do these renewable materials reduce waste, but they are also lighter than conventional plastics and metals – saving weight, which ultimately reduces fuel consumption while simultaneously improving performance.
Virtual reality is used to integrate or swap out parts, both inside and outside of Ford’s vehicles, in real time. Then those components can be created using a groundbreaking 3D printing technology that prints 25x-100x faster then conventional 3D printing. This allows engineers to experiment with and develop new parts faster and more efficiently.
Finally, Ford’s Smart Mobility program has shifted from strictly research to the implementation stage, meaning that the company is working to make the sensing and computing tech feasible for production while they continue to tweak the processes necessary to make it all work.
Ford is obviously not the sole automaker pushing the envelope of automotive technology, yet it is one of the few willing (and courageous enough) to share it with us. Such an experience sheds a new light on the direction of the company and has us looking forward to the next vehicles coming off the assembly line. And who knows? Maybe next we’ll get a call with an offer to test the latest from Google. They are making cars, you know.