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Ford teams with Facebook to make "social" car


March 5, 2012

Ford used the Hackathon event to get creative with potential features

Ford used the Hackathon event to get creative with potential features

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Automakers have begun slowly integrating social networking into vehicles via advanced infotainment systems that provide voice-activated social functions. In a recent collaboration with Facebook called "Hackathon," Ford gave the world a glimpse of what in-car social networking 2.0 might look like. It's scary and intriguing at the same time.

One time, long, long ago, cars were a primary means of socialization. You hopped into your red sports coupe and went on a date; you gathered a group of friends and went driving in the town; you drove to visit family every week, month or holiday. In short, the car was the way to see those that were important to, you face to face.

These days, you carry a mobile phone with texting capabilities, you video chat with long-distance friends and family, and you update your crew about your life instantaneously via Facebook and other networking websites. The car no longer plays a primary role in keeping you in touch and social. In fact, studies show that young people increasingly prefer smartphones over vehicles - the once timeless glamor of the first car is all but extinct.

Automakers are quite aware of this trend and are shrugging off potential dangers in an effort to make the car more social than ever. The Ford Sync system includes functions like voice-activated text messaging and in-vehicle smartphone app integration, which extends to Twitter updates.

At the Hackathon event last month, a team of Ford and Facebook programmers spent 24 hours brainstorming and hacking together advanced social functions that they believe could take the Sync system to the next level of in-vehicle socialization. The team created a vehicle in which Facebook integration was more than just a robotic voice reading updates. Facebook became intertwined with traditional vehicle functions like GPS and radio.

One of the functions the team worked on was a navigation system capable of not only supplying the driver with locations of nearby restaurants, but sorting those restaurants based on Facebook friend likes. So, you could eat at that hot new restaurant all your friends are talking about with hardly any effort. Another program could provide location updates for your friends, and automatically navigate you to them (kinda stalkerish if you ask us). A music function would let you automatically tune in to the music that your friends are playing.

Ford said the best ideas will find their way into official R&D; channels, where they'll be further developed. It ended its blog post about the event by promising the driver's "first priority will always be to remain focused on driving and making it safely to your destination." However, features like in-vehicle Facebook run the risk of creating cognitive distractions, which studies show can be as dangerous as manual distractions like dialing a cell phone.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has been quoted in the past as saying that things like Facebook have no place in the car. The Department of Transportation released the first phase of voluntary guidelines last month, that begins to address what automakers should and should not be doing in terms of vehicle technologies. The list is largely focused on manual-based technologies like Internet browsing and text messaging, but later phases will deal with things like voice-based texting and social networking. Functions like those dreamed up at Hackathon could very well end up on the wrong side of safety regulations.

Whatever becomes of the work, you can see all the brainstorming, coffee chugging and carpal tunnel-inducing keyboarding that went on behind the scenes below.

Source: Ford

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

If it reads texts to you it would help.


In my experience people are already getting sick and tired of knowing everything all their friends on facebook are doing and what they like so this will just drive them nuts. As far as I am concerned this is to late as the FB craze is over.


I saw two close calls of almost-head on collisions yesterday. It's a shame that it will take a few high profile deaths before the greedy business executives propagating this technology are thwarted by legislation.


Anyone else see the problem with this statement? "a team of Ford and Facebook programmers spent 24 hours brainstorming and hacking together advanced social functions"

Case in point, calling "advanced social functions" as such.


IS Ford trying to kill young drivers? Socialising while driving is DEAD set dangerous. There is so much else that can be done, GPS speed limiter that can be overridden while overtaking, Constant distance maintainance while driving on cruise control, Accurate speedometers, presets for cruise control, speed detecting of oncoming vehicles so you dont have a head on with a maniac doing 200kmph, driving is a serious job and not the place for social networking, which can be done by the passenger on a mobile phone.

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