At Ford, we’ve been facilitating social connections for more than a century. Just as Facebook wasn’t the first social network, Ford didn’t produce the first car. But, what Henry Ford and his team did was take a smarter approach by creating reliable and affordable transportation that put millions of people on the road around the world, thereby connecting more people with each other.
The mobility enabled by the car allowed people to get together with friends and family over greater distances and with more frequency than ever before, a trend that has continued to evolve for more than 100 years.
And now, Facebook is redefining what it means to socially connect by offering hundreds of millions of people the ability to connect with their friends, family and other interesting people, no matter where in the world they are.
In fact these online connections have become so pervasive that many young people are more interested in having a data-enabled smartphone than a driver’s license. Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst for Gartner, recently told the New York Times, “Mobile devices, gadgets and the Internet are becoming must-have lifestyle products that convey status. In that sense these devices offer a degree of freedom and social reach that previously only the automobile offered.”
While not everyone is more interested in Facebook than driving just yet, the trend is clear that people are connecting and sharing online more than ever. Researchers and developers at Ford understand that customers are increasingly bringing that online social experience into their car via the smartphone.
In order to explore what these converging trends mean to the customer, Ford and Facebook engineers got together and held a 24-hour “Hackathon” at Facebook’s Palo Alto campus looking at ways to socialize the car. The teams of hackers worked through the night to prototype some ideas that were demonstrated to the entire group at the end of the event. The best of those ideas are now being further developed in Ford’s Dearborn labs.
Over the past five years, Ford has enhanced mobile connections with the award-winning SYNC® connectivity system that is now installed in more than 4 million vehicles. SYNC lets drivers listen to their favorite tunes, answer calls, get directions and more using simple voice commands while keeping their eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel, providing a safer solution for the smartphone revolution that is now being brought into our cars.
Today, SYNC is great if you know what song you want to listen to or where you want to go. But what if you want to expand your audio, cultural or culinary horizons? While Facebook enables people to stay in touch with their friends, the social content generated by users actually makes it far more than just a simple communications tool.
Imagine if SYNC could leverage all of the information from you and your friends put on your Facebook timelines to make your drive more personalized? Instead of just asking for a nearby restaurant list from your navigation system, the restaurants presented could actually be ones that have been “liked” by your friends. Or you could ask if your friends are nearby and request navigation to their location. How about listening to the same stream of music that your friends are “DJ’ing” from the comfort of their own home?
And, why shouldn’t your car work for you to make your life more convenient? If you’re on your way to an appointment and running late, SYNC could automatically notify your friends with an estimated time of arrival. Then, upon arrival, SYNC would automatically “check-in” to your location.
When someone is behind the wheel, the first priority will always be to remain focused on driving and making it safely to your destination. But, at a time when consumers are starting to prioritize Internet access over access to a car, we need to explore what that means for car ownership. By safely blending Facebook connections with the power of SYNC, Ford could extend the social experience and use it to once again revolutionize your time behind the wheel.
Now we want to hear from you. Which of these in-car features developed in this research program would you want to see hit the market?
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