Your digital life may be moving to the cloud, but your car remains stubbornly stuck to the ground. And while today’s cars have tons of technology, they remain very self-contained: What you do in the car, stays in the car.
Ford’s new Focus Electric
, and other electrified models coming from Ford this year, show a future where your car is as connected as any other personal device you own. Thanks to a wireless module built into the Ford Focus Electric, and a new cloud-based tool called MyFord Mobile, you can communicate with this car about some basic activities even when you’re not in it.
The MyFord Mobile website lets you view your car’s charge status and other battery-related information. Accessible through a Web site or as an iOS app (with Android and BlackBerry apps to come), MyFord Mobile’s primary purpose is to help owners of electric cars manage the battery-charging process. It’s all about the charge: At home, a Value Charging feature lets you program the car to recharge when electricity rates are lowest; on the road, a charging station locator lets you take advantage of opportunities to replenish your car’s juice while you stop for groceries or go to a movie. A Mapquest module takes your car’s charge status into account while helping you plot a route..
Charging smarter, sooner, and socially
I got a chance to see MyFord Mobile in action during a Ford event earlier this week. The Ford Focus Electric was parked 100 feet away from me, but from an iPad, I could see its charge status—somewhat depleted after a morning of test drives—and see an encouraging cluster of charging stations in the area, mostly at business parks.
Other MyFord Mobile features include the ability to lock or unlock your car remotely; “precondition” it to cool off or warm up the interior shortly before you’re ready to drive; and help you locate nearby charging stations. The app also tracks your driving habits and encourages you to adopt braking, acceleration, and cruising techniques that can extend your range. You can even compare your driving and charging performance to those of other drivers—nothing like a little friendly competition among fellow geeks.
What’s next for the cloud-connected car?
What I like best about MyFord Mobile is the ideas it gives me about other things a cloud-connected car could do for you. Could it see that I have to drive to a meeting this morning; plot a route; calculate the drive time—taking into account current and historic traffic patterns; and ping me when it’s time to leave? Could I program motion-sensitive cameras to show me who dings my door in the parking lot? Will I be able to tell my car’s DVR to record a show for my kids to watch during our long trip to Grandma’s house, or download or stream a movie (forget the DVD)? Could I pack a cheese sandwich, put it in a special insulated box in my car, and have the car keep it cool until 5 minutes before we reach the picnic site, and then heat it so I could have a sort-of grilled cheese sandwich for lunch? Smells good to me!
Somewhat more seriously, what’s intriguing about MyFord Mobile is that it feels like a first step in the direction of making your car communicative, interactive, and maybe even proactive, in helping you get you through your daily life. Look for MyFord Mobile in another new Ford car launching later this year, a plug-in hybrid called the C-MAX Energi.