Order Pizza or Save Your Life: A Tour of the Ford Connected Car

November 10, 2014

8:00 am

Ford is the Platinum Sponsor of our November 19 Miami Sessions featuring StyleSeat cofounder Melody McCloskey.

Next time you’re cruising around in your Mustang and get a hankering for a deep dish with pepperoni, don’t try to dial your local Domino’s. We know you have it on speed dial, but it’s still dangerous – and so 2005. Instead, tell your car to order one for you.

The Domino’s mobile app integrated with Ford’s Sync AppLink connected car technology in January 2014, satisfying the cravings of Ford-owning pizza lovers everywhere.

“This [is] the first time any fast-food brand has been able to do this sort of e-commerce from a vehicle,” Domino’s CEO J. Patrick Doyle told Forbes.

Ford’s Sync technology launched in 2007, and it’s now available on 9 million vehicles. The AppLink feature lets you control iPhone and Android apps like Domino’s via voice commands. So whether you’re in a Fiesta or an Expedition or a Mustang, you can keep your hands on the wheel.

Ford

Sync offers the basics you’d expect like hands-free calling, music, directions, and vehicle health checks. But here are some of the cooler features and apps you can use:

1. Save your life

The Ford-built 911 Assist helps keep you safe in a crash. When the car detects an accident, it will call 911 from your phone, relay some details to the operator about the accident and your location, and then give you the option to speak (if you can). Updates coming to the 2015 Mustang can provide even more detail, like where the crash was (front/side/rear), the number of seatbelts in use, and whether there were multiple impacts. And you always have the option to cancel the call before it’s made. 

2. Listen to the news

Instead of boring radio news, get the latest headlines from USA Today. With Sync AppLink, you can use voice commands to open the USA Today app, pick a category like sports or travel, and scroll through different articles until you find one you want to hear.

3. Share your location

When you’re headed to meet a friend for coffee and running a few minutes late, the last thing you want to do is fumble to send them a text and miss the traffic light turning green. Instead, use Sync to tell the app Glympse to share your location with your friend via email, text, Facebook, or Twitter. Once they get the notification, they’ll be able to follow your progress on a map all the way to Starbucks.

In launching Sync, Ford has tried to keep the technology open and accessible – debuting on the popular, small family car the Ford Focus.

“For Ford, we really want to have the ability to make the technology accessible for people who might be buying their first car, to even the elderly folks. One of the things we try to avoid as much as possible is that routine, monthly subscription fee,” says Dave Hatton, Ford’s Global Product Leader for Connected Emergency Services, who works on 911 Assist. “That’s one of the guiding principles – trying to make things usable, accessible, and affordable, and that’s something that’s important to us.”

Ford also provides an SDK for developers, a kind of toolkit that allows them to integrate their apps with Sync in just a week or two. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out some of the resources at developer.ford.com.) Ford recently held a Developer Conference in Las Vegas with over 170 attendees and 60 hackathon participants, who met the Ford developer team and spent 12 hours hacking on Ford-connected apps.

So what applications is Ford looking to see developers work on?

“We’re just going after the applications that make the best driving environment and that our customers really want to use in the vehicle and might be using already – music, driving and location, trying to find a parking space,” says Hatton.

Or pizza, of course.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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