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Ford Has Done it All, Including A Car That Can Blog

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On: Wed, May 26, 2010 at 3:47PM | By: Sherry Christiansen

Ford Has Done it All, Including A Car That Can Blog

Ford has done it again—another first for the Detroit automaker!—the first ever automobile to use social media to communicate while on the road.  Ford’s “American Journey 2.0 research project” has been successfully completed using a Fiesta that traveled from Ann Arbor, Michigan to San Mateo, California.

In partnership with the University of Michigan, Ford has developed a new computer application called “Auto”matic Blog.  The Fiesta’s is known as @AJtheFiesta and it uses the login name to tweet progress of the trip based on “vehicle telemetrics.” 

Two Ford Fiestas traveled from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on May 13; they were linked to each other and to the global community through “Auto”matic Blog. The week-long road trip ended at Silicon Valley's annual ideas festival—the Maker Faire.

Upon the arrival of the two Fiestas, Ford announced the idea of the automobile as "a brand new technological platform for social media." "The car is the ultimate mobile device," claims Venkatesh Prasad, technical leader of the Infotronics team in Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.  "Ford has led the convergence of the auto and consumer electronics industries, and now we're researching how to responsibly and safely harness the Internet to enhance drivers' time behind the wheel."

Three new applications were tested in the first Fiesta, including: Virtual Road Rally, "Auto"matic Blog, and Local Search. The second Fiesta used the application titled “Caravan Track,’ which was developed by U-M computer science students Collin Hockey, John Ciccone, and Joe Phillips, and School of Information student Sangmi Park.

"We believe this is the first time vehicles will be socially connected through the Internet during a cross-country trip," said T.J. Giuli, Ford research engineer. "All the apps—from Caravan Track to the Virtual Road Rally, and particularly the notion of the car automatically posting its mood and location—really explore new boundaries in the use of digital tools to expand social links."

Virtual Road Rally will allow users to learn more about points of interest similar to the ones found in the conventional Road Rally; the program will divulge a wealth of information on the POIs as the driver reaches them. Road Rally users can use the program to get information on places that are “off the beaten path” which would give small local businesses a new way to attract more visitors to rare sites.

The “Auto”matic Blog program was designed as a way for the car to communicate its own unique personality through Twitter with statements about the road trip based on information gathered from different vehicle sensors and engine computers.

"For example, if one assumes that a happy car is one that's zipping along an open road or negotiating tight curves," explains Giuli, "the powertrain sensors—engine rpm, speed, steering inputs, g-loads, that sort of thing—can indicate to the car that it's in one of those fun situations, and the car can then indicate that with a tweet or blog post. Similarly, if it's at zero mph with the wipers on, the car might decide it's sitting in traffic in the rain and send a sad tweet. Either way, we wanted to allow the car to become a blogger."

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