New York International Auto Show

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New York International Auto Show

The first NYIAS opened in 1900. Cars, historically, have been a way of keeping people connected. Today, automakers are teaming with mobile industry players to explore how cars can also connect drivers to their other devices and content, as well as to personally relevant information.

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Personalized Fuel Efficiency Apps Challenge

During his March 27 keynote, Ford's Jim Farley announced that the automaker is putting up $50,000 to encourage developers to build innovative ways for drivers to improve their personal fuel economy. Drivers face a "torrent" of best-in-class claims that leave them confused, he said. "We need to ... give them tools to see, learn and act upon all the information available to know what to expect, how to improve and even offer guidance in their shopping process."

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Ford's OpenXC Research Platform

To qualify for the contest, apps must be built using OpenXC, the open-source platform developed by Ford. It consists of a hardware and software development kit that provides access to data that can be used as inputs to apps. In cars built since 1996, OpenXC can read sensor data such as mileage, throttle position, and engine and vehicle speeds.

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Ford OpenXC Kit

Here are the hardware components of the OpenXC Kit. Developers can ask for assistance or help others through the OpenXC Google Group. Ford will soon also begin offering OpenXC workshops for staff, TechShop members and the public.

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Ford, Google and Facebook's Merging Worlds

A seamless mobile user experience is of interest to mobile companies like Facebook and Google, but increasingly also to Ford and its peers. Farley, second from right, participated in a panel discussion moderated by Techonomy CEO David Kirkpatrick.

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Facebook Knows Social Connections

Doug Frisbie, Facebook's global head of automotive, said that a mobile device is "nothing more than a relationship device." Cars, like smartphones and apps, are ultimately about people and their needs—another means to an end. "Customers don't care about systems; they care about people," Frisbie said.

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Riding in Cars with Google

Michelle Morris, Google's industry director of automotive, said it has "never been more exciting to be in automotive." The auto industry is now aggressively focusing on women, millennials and Hispanics, and is now better equipped to connect with individuals in ways that they've made clear they prefer.

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Open Innovation

Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader of Ford's Open Innovation team, said that personalization has long been part of owning a car, but it's increasingly a platform on which "others can create and build solutions tailored to individual needs." He marveled at the ability to cater to a market of one person.

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When to Connect, When to Back Off

Farley, an auto-industry veteran and longtime car lover who's grandfather worked for Henry Ford, is still learning. Cars and smartphones offer opportunities for advertising, but smart companies know which to back away from. Ford has learned that "a mobile device is like a piece of jewelry—it's private [and] it's specific to you," Farley said. "Because of that, advertising on that device is different from advertising on other devices."

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The Car Is Just One More Device

"When your dashboard becomes a seamlessly connected screen, it truly becomes a more important, integrated part of your life," said Brendon Kraham, Google's director of global mobile sales and product strategy, who participated in the panel and the keynote. Predictive technologies—your car or phone automatically finding and speaking directions to you—also will help to address distracted driving, Kraham said.

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