Microsoft and Ford look further

Posted By Chris Elliott
Senior Marketing Communications Manager

Go Further with Ford Trend Conference is becoming an annual pilgrimage for journalists and bloggers interested in learning more about Ford, its business plans, and its newest model lineup. This event at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan attracts hundreds of journalists from all over North America to learn about the company and its cars, including the technology Ford uses in its products and its plans for its technological future. And we had the opportunity to share our vision for the connected car with attendees.

It’s not very often the Ford Motor Company opens its top secret testing facility for media to not only get a peek at the facilities, but also to experience firsthand some of the brand’s latest offerings. And this rare treat was not lost on the event’s participants. To make the experience even more special for its guests Ford created various stations and courses to showcase the new Mustang and its All-American muscle; get a ride in a police interceptor with a professional driver behind the wheel; experience the surprising off-the-line torque of an electric car; and participate in a tech relay race that featured self-parking cars and automatic lift gates.

And, lest I forget, the off-road thrill ride that challenges the senses while testing one’s notion of what a truck can do in the dirt when in the hands of a slightly crazed professional driver. The truck? The exciting 2013 Ford Raptor.

This year, Bill Ford Jr. kicked off the event and discussed with the audience the company’s global vision of what Ford is doing with its advance technology research. Bill’s concerned about the planet, its population of people and how best to prevent things like 100 mile traffic jams from happening again in developing countries. He also sees how the millions of bits of information that are being generated daily by automobiles on the road can be used to help conserve fuel, reduce pollution and even stress in our daily lives.

The future of the connected car

The trend sessions continued the next day with four different groups of speakers sharing their collective thoughts on the future of technology, the future of design, the future of ecology and the future of urbanization.

Microsoft Windows Embedded Director of User Experience John Hendricks shared some of his thoughts on how the future will bring about a far simpler in-car computing experience. As Microsoft considers what is possible in the future, approaching features intelligently is a top priority. “If the user doesn’t use a feature, it simply doesn’t exist,” he said. Consumer demand for access to their information and entertainment is expanding from the living room and office to all aspect of their lives—it’s no longer as simple as having a laptop and a mobile phone.

One big place of emphasis for us is ensuring drivers are focused on the road. No-look technologies or speech makes a system such as Ford SYNC a value-add. John stressed that it was important to not just add technology because it's fun in the car, it's all about safety. John explained that part of that safety vision is having the in-car system be capable of learning your behaviours and adjusting the system based on that learning.

In-car connectivity

Did I mention it was stifling hot with oppressive humidity? That’s Dearborn in the summertime for you. Well it was and that worked in our favor since Microsoft had a display that was in an air conditioned building with cold refreshments and snacks. The newest Ford Explorer was on-hand and I used it to demonstrate the latest version of Ford SYNC, powered by Microsoft. The system surprised many with its abilities to play a song on demand from their USB devices, call their wife with a simple voice command, and to find ice cream by just asking, “Where’s the nearest ice cream parlor?”

Dozens of Windows Phones were also on display drawing the attention of the wilted journalists who quickly came alive and started to play with the phones while snacking. Ford SYNC’s integration with Windows Phones provide users with an in-vehicle experience that allows them to safely remain connected to their contacts and even send text messages while on the road using their voice.

It was an action-packed couple of days for the journalists. And even the most jaded among had to be impressed with how technology is impacting today’s automobile and must be eagerly awaiting tomorrow’s. I know we are.

Gary Clayton, Chief Creative Officer of Nuance, Parish Hannah, Ford’s Director Human Interface and John Hendricks, Microsoft’s Director of User Experience pose following their panel on the future of in-car technology.

John Hendricks, Director of User Experience for Windows Embedded poses with a storyboard illustrating his conversation on stage. And yes, that is Iron Man driving the Bat Mobile.

Attendees were able to watch robots battle it out during one of the evening events.

Portland-based band Blind Pilot provided a stellar backdrop for an evening of networking and conversations.

Senior Marketing Communications Manager Chris Elliott prepares to demonstrate the integration of Windows Phone and Ford SYNC.


Attendees were hurled around Ford's off-road test track in the 2012 F-150 Raptor by the SVT's senior engineering team.