Ford is doing more than most to connect our cars, but is it making our lives better?
Ford announced its latest partnership with Spotify at Mobile World Congress
in Barcelona this week.
While the likes of Google and Oxford University may be giving us a glimpse of what the distant future holds in terms of how we drive our cars (or not drive them as may be the case), Ford is the company doing the most to bring technology into its cars today.
From automatically avoiding collisions while driving around the city, to helping people parallel park and boosting the economy of their cars' engines, Ford has on a technical level brought what was futuristic into its range of cars and vans.
Inside the car, Ford has also sought to help you seamlessly bring the devices, experiences and connectivity you have everywhere else to your driving experience.
From voice controlled navigation to the recent announcement of a new Spotify collaboration, Ford is leading the way with in-car technology.
The question many are asking is whether or not Ford is losing its focus on the cars which made the company successful, and focusing too much on technology instead.
The question seemed to be answered by Paul Mascarenas in Barcelona this week when the company was the only automotive brand to have a stand at Mobile World Congress. The head of technology for the company said people now see Ford more as a "technology automotive company" and no longer a car company.
However, when we put this to Mascarenas following the announcement, he was clear that Ford knew it had a huge customer base whose primary interest in the Ford brand is in the cars themselves and not whether or not they can stream Spotify or not.
Mascarenas believes the company has built the Ford brand on a solid foundation of design and performance which remain in place today. On top of this Ford has innovated with the like of its EcoBoost engine, Active Park Assist and Active city Stop - technologies which improve the driving experience.
The final layer added by Ford was its Sync voice control system which has been augmented with the AppLink platform which lets developers create bespoke apps which let you do a range of actions using the Sync system.
Many high-end car manufacturers, notably BMW, have a wide range of connectivity and technology integrated into their models, but Ford is trying to spread the technology to a much lower price point.
And Ford is not stopping there. Mascarenas explains that it want the industry to adopt its AppLink platform across the board. However it's not looking for payment for these innovations, instead giving it away for free.
So why would Ford simply give away this advantage it has over its competitors? Mascarenas believes a competitive advantage like this can only be kept in place for so long and it's better to move the entire industry forward.
We are still in the very early days of cars being connected and the experience for many is still a little jarring.
Driving a Ford Kuga around Barcelona testing out the latest in connectivity is probably not a great way to see how this technology can make your driving experience better.
Sure you get to see that the Sync system works and connecting your smartphone is very straight-forward, but it's how it works on your commutes to and from work which really matter. Does it make your drive easier? Does it just work, without a lot of fuss and the need to take your eyes off the road?
While Ford is making great strides in making our car journeys as connected as the rest of our lives, it will only be when we don't even notice all the technology it has implemented that it will have succeed.
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