Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ford, U-M reveal students’ vision for future of in-car cloud computing

Students at U-M have defined their vision for the future of in-car connectivity — a future that includes applications combining social networks, GPS location awareness, and real-time vehicle data in ways that help drivers get where they want to go efficiently.

The experimental apps were developed in a 12-week course, Cloud Computing in the Commute. The course, initiated by Ford Research & Advanced Engineering, prototyped social networking and transportation apps as part of a larger Ford initiative called American Journey 2.0, a joint, open-innovation research project involving Microsoft and Intel, offering students the chance to innovate the future of the in-car experience.

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All six winning entries have posted videos of their apps on Facebook. Go to

Six teams presented their apps to a panel of judges from Ford, U-M and Microsoft. The winning application, called Caravan Track, will run on a Windows 7 PC in a Ford Fiesta research vehicle that will make a socially networked road trip from the university to Maker Faire, the world’s largest do-it-yourself ideas festival in Silicon Valley, beginning May 22. The road trip will leave from Ann Arbor on Friday.

“We consider the collaboration between Ford and the University of Michigan a model for innovation and open collaboration, and it’s an exciting way to help shape tomorrow’s work force,” says Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader of the Infotronics team in Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.

Using technology and development tools provided by Ford, Microsoft and Intel, along with a crash course in vehicle interface design provided by Ford engineers, the six teams of students crafted these visions for the future:

• Caravan Track allows clusters of vehicles traveling together to track each other along the journey. Team members include John Ciccone, Collin Hockey, Sang Park and Joe Phillips.

• Fuel Tracker provides drivers with real-time feedback about fuel economy and driving habits based on past drivers on a specific route. Team members include Paul Coldren, Amy Kuo, Petch Wannissorn and Clayton Willey.

• The GreenRide Challenge provides a collaborative ride-sharing system, attempting to connect drivers with potential carpool passengers in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Team members include Scott Dang, Nate Hill, Raphael Jarrouj and Bryan Summersett.

• Listen. Speak. Rate. Share. provides users with in-car audio reviews for various points of interest, and also allows drivers to share their thoughts on visited locations, connecting through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Team members include James Di, Yi-wei Ma, Alok Talekar and Xiaowen Zhang.

• NostraMap collects data about road and traffic conditions, giving drivers advance notice about accidents, construction, poor surfaces and other hazards. Team members include Murtuza Boxwala, Nader Jawad, Justin Taseski and Sui Yan.

• Points-of-Interest uses a dynamic recommendation system to point drivers toward locations and businesses that match their interests but that they may not have otherwise visited. Team members include Ryan James, Brad Rubin, Dhritiman Sagar and Weihua Wang.

“This was an incredible opportunity for our students to work closely with an industrial partner on the leading edge of a growing trend,” says Brian Noble, associate professor in computer science and engineering. Noble co-taught the course with computer science and engineering associate professor Jason Flinn.

Working with Microsoft and Intel, Ford provided the students with a developmental application platform built on Windows 7 and Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio in the vehicle to access Windows Azure in the cloud.

“Through our work with Ford, the University of Michigan and Intel on this project, Microsoft is helping to further open innovation within the automotive industry and provide a consistent, connected in-vehicle experience that seamlessly integrates into consumers’ digital lifestyles,” says David Graff, director of U.S. Automotive and Industrial Equipment Industry Solutions for Microsoft.

“Intel is committed to offering products and technologies that will bring new compelling and driver-safe applications to the car,” says Staci Palmer, director of Strategic Market Development, Embedded and Communications Group, Intel Corp.