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Students Design In-Car Apps for Ford Fiesta

Making mobile Internet access easier – and safer, Ford claims.

by on May.14, 2010

University of Michigan student Collin Hockey describes the app developed by his team for Ford's Sync system. Photo (c) Bryan Laviolette

For a growing number of people, the Internet is an ever-present companion, whether they’re using a laptop to pay bills or posting a status update on facebook from their smartphone. In fact, there’s really just one place, doing one activity, where connecting to the Net is a problem: behind the wheel of a car while driving.

Ford is looking for a way to make that possible – safely — and the company has turned to those drivers most connected to the Web to find a solution.  They have formed a partnership with a class at the University of Michigan (U-M) where students are designing apps for use in the car – specifically through Ford’s Sync technology.

The research project has so far resulted in six programs for the company’s new Fiesta, a subcompact due to launch as a 2011 model. Ford uses Sync’s voice recognition technology to make these applications accessible while driving.

“We’re talking about bringing the Internet up to speed,” Alan Hall, technology communications manager for Ford, said. “Voice is what we really see as the primary interface moving forward.”

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Marrying the Internet to the automobile will also aid productivity, said Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader of Ford’s infotronics research and advanced engineering team. He said that commuting to and from work is lost time while the driver has to concentrate only on driving.

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