Making the Car Social Again

By Julius M.

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?
  1. Automatic Facebook check-ins when you arrive at a destination

  2. GPS directions to your Facebook events

  3. Access to your Facebook friends’ Spotify playlists

Make your opinion count in our Facebook poll by clicking here and logging your vote.
Lance Diehl 09/09/2012
How about putting some style and color back into these "plain oatmeal"
machines? Get some real stylists, not those who uglied-up the Mustan
with its Aston-Martin-like face and homely-panel rear end. (And who approved the GOOFY grilles for ford Trucks with the Giant "Equal"
sign bracketed by two staples?? Had your desk drawer open, didn't you? Come-on, now, we deserve a revival of genuine beauty!!!!
People are WAY TOO interested and distracted with electronics now.
Put them aside and drive, for Pete's sake, and get where you wish ALIVE!
Mary Lynn M 04/06/2012
Like the creativity shown on the hack event. Hope lots comes from this and there is more. Brainstorming brings great ideas. ML
Chris B 04/06/2012
Maybe Ford should stop going to Facebook and work on putting AppLink on the 2012 Focus.
Very interesting, though it is a feature I wouldn't need. I drive an E-150 Chateau van...I LOVE Ford vans!
rich faix 04/06/2012
we need none of this,drive your ford for fun,or go places, talk to the people in your car,etc. leave your facebook,etc.etc.etc. at home,dont be a prisoner to your electronics.
Thomas M 04/05/2012
All I want is a car that is safe to drive, gets great gas mileage, is fun to drive and is American made and didn't take bailout $$$. I bleed blue oval, just ask my wife, but when are we going to come up with the ideas that everyone else is copying instead of the other way around?
Marie R 04/05/2012
I'm Ford all the way. My husband has a 2010 Raptor and it is a sweet truck. He still hasn't figured out the radio all the way yet. Ours has the 6.2 engine in it and we love it. I have a 2002 Mustang Covertiable and I painted it Grabber Orange and it looks fabulous and I get compliments every time I take it out from very young to older folks in their 80's+. I've had i for 7+ years and I'm trying to sale it as I would like to get a newer one..Love my Fords. :):):)
While partially useful, intergrating Facebook into a Car's touch screen is not that important. Changing Ford Sync from a Microsoft based platform to a Apple or Linus one is. Several Ford vehicles have dropped in customer quality survees due to problems with the Sync touch screen.
Cheryl W 04/05/2012
I can hardly wait! I will be in line to get it! I have the ford Mustang and I can't believe how much I love it, so looks like I won't be trading it in, I will just have to buy another one! =)
I don't use Facebook often enough to need it in my vehicles.
William H 04/05/2012
Yeah! That's what was missing, social networking. Why watch the road while barreling along in two tons of steel! That's what Air-Bags are for! So please, add even more electronic crap to my car!
Istvan B 04/05/2012
a manual transmission
I will buy one!
thats the way i see it to.
Roberto G 03/01/2012
Ford Sync and Facebook together really doesn't impress me or make anything more convenient in my life. Now Ford Sync, Apple and integrating Siri into my Ford Sync, now that will really impress me. To be able to touch a button on my car and connect to Siri to change an appointment around on the fly if I just received a call or message that called for it, that's convenience. To touch a button on my car and have a reminder when I arrive at a location without pulling out my phone to do it, those are the types of things that will impress me. Not connecting my car to Facebook.
Eliz Alaga 02/29/2012
Yes the care is social Now tell this to the Oil Companies even though Ford is great on gas The powers that be seem to want gas prices hike up The Oil Industry has done this before I love my Ford Fusion though This care glides really and wheh I want to fly it does and hugs the road What a great car Thanks Ford Motor Company
Evelyn Adee 02/29/2012
HEY... I don't mind Ford telling it like it is. I just sold my Mercury Sable to a person that heard I was going to trade it in on a Lincoln. I didn't think he was going to let me get all my things out he was that excited to get it. Bring it on Ford if the computation cant't take it, it is their problem!
Claude Bélisle 02/29/2012
Vive le CO-VOITURAGE...Aussi!
Alyssa B 02/29/2012
This video & article is great! I've been sharing it on multiple platforms and with friends. It's incredible what technology and talented programmers can do. Love the contributions of both FB and Ford. #FordSocial #Teamwork Two Thumbs Up!
Cory Peele 02/29/2012
@brian quit ur spamming.
Alan 02/29/2012
Really smart idea, Julius!
Doug Dwyer 02/29/2012
The automobile has been a major source of personal freedom, allowing us to go where we want , when we want. Nothing else has been able to do that. It is also a unique mobile art form used by many to express their own creativity.
Making the Car Social….Again
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