Ford Motor Company announced that it is planning to spread some of its latest safety and connectivity features to more Ford and Lincoln models for the 2012 model year as well as develop new technologies to make cars, vehicle occupants and even the roads safer. Some of the technologies that Ford is developing for its future vehicles even combine elements to improve both safety and connectivity.
Ford Technology: Sync AppLink
While Ford’s technology showcase touched on many different areas, the biggest news was that Sync AppLink will be offered on six new models. After debuting on the 2011 Ford Fiesta and being confirmed for the 2012 Ford Mustang, Ford announced that it would also offer Sync AppLink on the 2012 Ford Fusion, 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, 2012 Shelby GT500, 2012 Ford F-Series (including F-150, F-150 SVT Raptor and F-Series Super Duty), 2012 Ford Expedition and 2012 Ford E-Series. Sync AppLink is one of a growing number of in-car features that allow drivers to pair smartphones with their cars to use certain applications (or apps). Drivers using the Sync AppLink software with Apple, Android or Blackberry smartphones can currently use Pandora, Stitcher and OpenBeak hands-free through the car’s audio system.
Ford Technology: MyKey
Ford has some changes in store for its MyKey system that allows parents to “baby sit” their teen drivers by limiting certain features and controls. MyKey currently allows parents (or key administrators) to limit vehicle top speed and audio levels, set speed warnings and turn off the audio system until the driver’s seat belt is buckled when the programmed key is used. The second-generation MyKey system will be available later this year for 2012 model year vehicles, and it will add even more features to help limit driver distractions or discourage unsafe driving. Currently, MyKey only allows for a limited top speed of 80 miles per hour, but the new system will include new top-speed limiters at 55, 65 or 75 mph. On models equipped with MyFord Touch, parents will be able to activate a “do not disturb” feature, which prevents incoming calls (yes, including calls from the parents themselves). Finally, the audio system will have new MyKey functions such as limiting maximum volume and blocking adult-rated satellite radio stations using a coding system already in place by SiriusXM.
Ford Technology: Inflatable Seat Belts
For improved safety, Ford said that it will offer its innovative inflatable rear seat belt on a growing number of cars for 2012. This safety feature debuted on the 2011 Ford Explorer as a $195 option, and it says that 40 percent of buyers are choosing this option. Available currently for only the outboard second-row occupants, the seat belts inflate like an airbag during a collision to help reduce head and neck injuries, and it works with car seats and booster seats. Ford confirmed that the inflatable seatbelts would show up next in the 2012 Ford Flex and “two other Lincoln models” which is sure to include the Flex-related Lincoln MKT.
Ford Technology: Health and Wellness
In addition to all of the expanded or improved technologies, Ford also had some future technology on display. These include new Sync-compatible features such as Health and Wellness Monitoring, 112 Assistance (for European drivers) and Sync MyBrain. The latter is in the early developmental stages of figuring out what to do with voice recognition in the future, but the display showed the ability of Sync to interact with drivers using a trivia game; this feature alone could be used as a learning tool for kids in a car or as entertainment for long road trips. The Health and Wellness Monitoring featured a few useful technologies that can monitor the driver’s heart rate through the seat, track glucose levels for Diabetic occupants using Bluetooth or even check the quality of air (including pollen) along certain routes, which would be beneficial for asthmatic occupants. Sync is also being tailored to include better compatibility for 112 emergency calls (Europe’s version of 911). Since many European countries speak different languages, Sync will soon be able to translate between live operators and vehicle occupants in the event of a collision.
Ford Technology: Intelligent Vehicle
One of the most advanced features Ford showed off, however, was its Intelligent Vehicle technology. This technology takes collision warning and avoidance to a new level by allowing the car to warn drivers of impending accidents by using wireless signals. While the driver’s line of sight might be impeded by an object, this communication tool allows cars to “speak” to each other in order to determine the speed and position relative to other vehicles. During a demonstration, Ford engineers performed several common maneuvers that could result in a collision and used this system to warn the driver in advance. Currently, the system only acts as a passive warning device and will not automatically stop the car, but in the future, it could be used along with the radar-based Collision Warning with Brake Support feature used in some current Ford models. Ford is currently working with other automakers, suppliers and governments to come up with a single language so all vehicles will be able to communicate with each other.