According to Ford's latest tech vision, unveiled today at CES 2016 in Las Vegas, tomorrow's cars will not only be able to "talk" with and control smart-home systems, but could provide a platform for drone-based search, rescue and recovery missions.
Among the auto company's announcements at CES today: a $100,000 developer challenge launched in partnership with drone-maker DJI and the United Nations Development Program; a tripling of its test fleet for autonomous vehicle research; new collaborative projects with Amazon's smart digital assistant Alexa; and smart-home device integrator Wink.
Ford's Smart Mobility plan, launched in 2014, envisions a future in which connectivity, big data and autonomous vehicles (Image credit: Ford) help people get around more easily than ever. Its development efforts in that area include its Sync connected- technology, which is already found in more than 15 million Ford vehicles.
Drone-Vehicle Rescues, Other Applications
Together with the United Nations and DJI, Ford today announced a new challenge for drone app developers: create a way to launch a drone from a moving Ford F-150 truck; have it assess an emergency situation; transmit that information back; and then return and autonomously land back on the truck it launched from.
The DJI Developer Challenge, now in its third year, comes with the promise of $100,000 in prize money. Fifteen teams are expected to be shortlisted for the competition by May 10, with finals set to be held August 27 and 28 in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The winning system could prove useful in situations such as early emergency responses and survivor rescue efforts after earthquakes or tsunamis, according to Ford. Other applications could include drone-vehicle operations for farming, forestry, construction or bridge inspection.
"Working with DJI and the United Nations, there is an opportunity to make a big difference with vehicles and drones working together for a common good," said Ken Washington, Ford's vice president of research and advanced engineering, in a statement.
Exploring Smart Home-Car Communications
Ford also said it is looking at ways to make its Sync connected-vehicle technology work with Amazon's Echo voice-command device and cloud-based Alexa service, as well as with Wink's smart-home technology platform. Integrating those systems could, for example, enable Ford owners to use voice commands to remotely turn on lights at home or check on the remaining driving ranges of their electric vehicles.
"Consumers increasingly want to stay connected to their homes while on the move," said Don Butler, Ford's executive director for Connected Vehicle and Services, in a statement. "Linking smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to vehicles via SYNC would fulfill that desire, and allow consumers to connect with their vehicles even when they aren't behind the wheel."
As part of its ongoing effort to develop self-driving car technologies, Ford today also said it plans to expand its fleet of autonomous vehicles with 20 new Fusion Hybrids. Those vehicles will be equipped with the latest LiDAR (a laser-based technology similar to radar) sensors from Velodyne, which provide an increased sensing range of 200 meters to help the cars better navigate a wide range of driving scenarios.
New sensors and other technology updates will help "bring Ford ever closer to having a fully autonomous vehicle ready for production," according to Jim McBride, Ford's technical leader for autonomous vehicles.
Read more on: Ford
, Self-Driving Cars
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, Next Big Thing
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