Ford's vision for the connected car

Turning your car into an ultra smart smartphone accessory and keeping you safe

Once you have a connected platform in the car, there are other things you can use it for, Connelly pointed out. "Why should you have to give every new car you drive all your settings? It's easy to use technology to fix this. 'This is Mary; she likes this much arm rest, this temperature, this radio station'.

"We already have this with smart keys [if you share a car]. Because of this key, the car knows which driver it is and it can adjust the seat and the mirrors and give you your customised experience in the car - you can change the length of the arm rest, the height and other settings."

Safety tech

Further away is connecting one car to another using Wi-Fi, and to sensors along the roads you drive along. That's not just useful for self-driving cars; it's for making things safer.

"We already have sensors to warn you whether it's safe to change lanes and make it safer to back out of a parking space," Connelly says. "We can enhance your response time because sensors respond faster than the human eye."

Doing that with radar and cameras is pricey. Putting GPS and Wi-Fi in each car is far cheaper enables you to get information from other cars about traffic ahead, or know when there's someone coming around a blind corner or running the traffic light ahead. That way your car can warn you to change route or brake automatically to avoid an accident.

We tried that out on Ford's test track and the car slowed itself down long before we saw the van veering towards us.

Wi-Fi range doesn't limit this. "We can use street lights to pass on information such as 'there's an accident five miles ahead, you should get off this road now'," Connolly suggests.

The problem isn't getting the information into the car, but setting up the infrastructure and partnerships to get the scale you need to make this work.

"You need city planners to want to build the technology in. And the sensors have to be brand agnostic; it's not whether this is a Ford or a BMW or a pedestrian, but just 'there's something in your blind spot."

And of course it has to be reliable. "A lot of information is still extremely difficult to get right," Connelly admits. So while she says Ford will have car-to-car communication in "the near future", it will be more than five years before you get a warning from a car around the corner.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor

Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.