This week Ford invited reporters from around the U.S. to check out Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, for a special Forward with Ford event. Instead of traditional automobile experts and enthusiasts that are often invited to Ford HQ, the event gathered writers from across the social media landscape and featured speeches from best selling author Malcolm Gladwell, renown actor and activist Ed Begley Jr., and others. But to be downright honest, we were more excited to have the opportunity to walk around inside Ford’s labs and get an exclusive behind the scenes look at their methods.
Touchscreen devices might be all the rage now, but Ford sees Voice control as the future. To that effect, Ford has added their SYNC AppLink technology to ten of their vehicles and they are also hard at work developing an denouncing their in car SYNC voice control tech. That means you can now tell your car that you don’t like the song you’re listening to on Pandora, without ever lifting your eyes off of the steering wheel.
Ford is working hard to use as many recycled materials as possible. Even their seat cushions, setbacks and headliners are being made with green materials – they are actually making them out of a soy-based polyurethane foam. They’re using other renewable materials like wheat straw to build vehicle storage bins and interior door panels. They are also working hard so that most of the materials taken from retired vehicles can be processed for recycling too.
Ford is working on new technologies that help make their vehicles more intelligent. In particular, we got to experience their Blind Spot Information System, adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support first hand. This driver-assist technology offers alerts to drivers that can help them avoid crashes. The system uses radar sensors to detect objects close to the vehicle. To show us how this technology works, our driver nearly drove us head-on into another car. Fortunately, the collision warning system kicked in and alerted him of his dangerous driving maneuvers. Ford is also working on a technology that will on day allow cars to communicate wirelessly with one another via Wi-Fi to help warn each other of possible dangers on the road. Of-course, all of these technologies can not only potentially reduce the amounts of crashes on the road, but they can also help save drivers time – along with money spent on fuel.
It seems like we’re always seeing the same old blah colors on the road. But that is about to change now that Ford is adding new color hues to their cars – starting with Ruby Red and Blue Candy Tinted Clearcoat. Plus, they are working on rolling out other new colors that will feature more “complex” metallics, tinted clearcoats, tri-coats and neutrals. Apparently, having color choices is more important than we might have previously considered. Ford says that 40% of car buyers have said that they would walk out of a dealership if they couldn’t get the color they wanted. Personally, we’re waiting on fuchsia pink to roll into the lot.
Many drivers and passengers alike love that new car smell, but it’s not just that new car smell that Ford thinks about. They also consider the smell of different components and materials in your car over time and under different temperature conditions. That is where the Ford Smell Jury comes in. Yep, Ford has a dedicated team of people whose job is replicate all the possible smells that your car might produce over time, and to figure out how to make them more pleasant.
But scent and vision, aren’t the only parts of your sensory that matters to Ford’s manufacturing and product design process. Their labs also have a dedicated team whose job is to make sure that your experience inside their vehicle is as silent and peaceful as possible. The team uses special equipment, like the Noise Vision tool. The Noise Vision tool is a special device with 31 microphones built-inside of it. This tools helps engineers “see” sound, or rather, translate it into visuals on a computer so that they can determine how to reduce and illuminate noise. Now if only the Ford engineers could figure out how to make your kids quieter too on long rides.
You would never guess it, but when it comes to understanding how people interact with their vehicles, Ford actually uses similar technology to what is used to make special effects in films. In their Human Occupant Package Simulator (HOPS) Lab, they have special equipment which is able to study how people get in, and out, how they shift, and how they generally interact with their vehicle. This technology is similar to the tech that is used to make expensive special effects like what you have seen in Avatar. Speaking of how people interact with their vehicle, Ford also has an in-house team that is dedicated to making sure your comfortable while sitting in their vehicle seats. What a Bunch of A$$ Kissers.
Ford is using special MuCell technology to make plastic components in their cars lighter in weight, yet just as durable. The technology, which was originally developed at MIT, produces tiny bubbles in plastic components so that weight for the components can drop by 10% to 15%. At the end of the day, that is good news for everyone, because lighter vehicles means more fuel efficiency. When we were greeted by Ford Labs scientists, who work on MuCell technology, not only did they walk us through the process of how MuCell technology works, but they also reproduced it for us by showing how it can work similarly when producing chocolate! The Ford lab scientists get an A+ for coming up with a creative way to get us to understand how MuCell technology works.