As an industry, we are in the middle of the internet of things – the car is becoming the connected item; to the customer and to other cars. So, while the car has not yet become autonomous, there are gradual steps being made toward that.
We are working hard to incorporate mobile connectivity safely. Ford SYNC with Emergency Assist will, with a connected phone, automatically call the emergency services in the event of a serious crash.
Cruise control, for instance, was designed to keep cars at a constant speed. Now, adaptive cruise control allows the driver to maintain a constant speed and distance from the vehicle in front; if it starts to slow down, so do you.
The next step is to increase how much vehicles communicate with one another. Rather than the driver reacting to what another car is doing, the cars themselves share data with each other and can react to situations much more quickly – vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
Over time, this could lead to knowledge of what the third or fourth car in front is doing. With vehicles in effect "platooning" at the same speed on motorways, this could bring about a reduction in traffic congestion and fuel consumption, and even cut the number of accidents on the road.
Safety is currently the biggest driver for the internet of things in Ford vehicles. We are working hard to incorporate mobile connectivity safely, and Ford SYNC with Applink takes this a step further, allowing drivers to voice-control their mobile apps. Also, Ford SYNC with Emergency Assist will, with a connected phone, automatically call the emergency services in the local language in the event of a serious crash, and the GPS signal will identify the vehicle’s exact location.
The customer’s privacy is extremely important, so while the use of the internet in our vehicles may require an element of data collection – location, for example – this is contextual privacy. Vehicle-location data is transmitted only when fulfilling a specific service request, and the customer has opted-in to the service.
When you start to open up the internet and connectivity to other aspects, such as location services, finding and booking a hotel room, continual driver-health monitoring and even wi-fi connectivity for passengers, the scope is simply enormous.
The other side of this is making sure people are comfortable with their level of privacy, which is quite a big issue. It is very contextual.