The American vehicle manufacturer Ford and students from the University of Michigan revealed today some great possibilities of the future when it comes down to in-car connectivity. The focus of the applications developed was set on GPS and real-time vehicle data and social networks.

The pilot project/competition called “American Journey 2.0” included a 12 week course in Cloud Computing in the Commute during which students developed and built applications based on Ford’s developmental application platform dubbed “Fiestaware”.

“Already, we have proven that we can access information in the cloud,” said Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader of the Infotronics team in Ford Research & Advanced Engineering.

“This project gives us the opportunity to harness the power of student innovation to explore beyond current capabilities and develop what’s next. We provided these students with the tools to innovate, and in approximately 100 days they created fun, unique and really useful results.”

As part of the course, Ford says students were encouraged to explore the potential of cloud computing, voice and touch connectivity in the car. The resulting six apps will be run on a Ford Fiesta research vehicle on a road trip to a festival in California’s Silicon Valley.

Caravan Track was judged the best app! It allows clusters of vehicles traveling together to track each other as they go. After identifying a route on a main website, users can join to see fellow travelers; view vehicle telemetry including fuel level and speed; track each vehicle; map routes; send alerts about stops along the way and send text notifications about road conditions.

Here are the rest of the apps that entered the competition:

  • Fuel Tracker: It gives the driver real-time feedback about economy and driving habits based on past drivers on a specific route.
  • NostraMap: Data is collected about road and traffic conditions, giving drivers advance notice about accidents, construction, poor surfaces and other hazards. The app relies on crowd-sourcing: When a user encounters a situation, he or she draws a single character on the map display (A for accident, C for construction, etc.), which is then updated for all users to see.
  • 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. The app is connected through Facebook, matching friends who need rides with destinations entered by the driver. It also allows drivers to invite friends to ride.
  • Listen. Speak. Rate. Share: Provides 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 popular social media sites.
  • Points-of-Interest: A dynamic recommendation system to point drivers toward locations and businesses that match their interests. The system uses a complex algorithm to learn a driver’s tastes and interests over time, allowing it to provide more tailored recommendations and learn the tastes of users with similar interests.