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27_Ford

For turning a car company into a software leader.

27_Ford

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.

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THE FEATURES

ROXIMITY
Identifies deals at nearby restaurants and retailers based on the driver’s preferences.

SYNC
Enables voice commands while using GPS maps, audiobooks, Pandora, and various apps.

LANE-KEEPING AID
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.

AUTOMATIC UPDATES
Scheduled software upgrades via the vehicle’s Wi-Fi receiver are in the works.

WORKLOAD ESTIMATOR
If driver acts too stressed, it blocks incoming calls and texts.

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Illustration by Owen Gildersleeve, Photograph by Victoria Ling

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About the author

Chuck Salter is a senior editor at Fast Company and a longtime award-winning feature writer for the magazine. In addition to his print, online and video stories, he performs live reported narratives at various conferences, and he edited the Fast Company anthologies Breakthrough Leadership, Hacking Hollywood, and #Unplug

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