Last June, Ford took a big step beyond Detroit: It opened an R&D lab in Palo Alto and asked developers to think of Ford cars the same way they think of the iPhone-iPad ecosystem. "With software updates, we keep vehicles fresh and relevant, which is compelling for consumers spending tens of thousands on a car they expect to keep for years," says CTO Paul Mascarenas. Customers seem to be responding. Third-quarter pretax earnings in 2012 were a record $2.2 billion, and over half of Ford owners cite the connectivity system as a big reason for their purchase. So it makes sense that when Ford sends out USB drives with software updates, 80% of customers use them.
Identifies deals at nearby restaurants and retailers based on the driver's preferences.
Enables voice commands while using GPS maps, audiobooks, Pandora, and various apps.
Alerts driver if it senses a lane change without a signal, and even nudges the car back in its lane.
ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL
Alerts the driver when approach-ing a vehicle too quickly.
Scheduled software upgrades via the vehicle's Wi-Fi receiver are in the works.
If driver acts too stressed, it blocks incoming calls and texts.
Illustration by Owen Gildersleeve, Photograph by Victoria Ling