Ford takes Google Maps for a ride

New feature will let users send Google-created maps and directions from computers, phones to their cars

Looking to take a road trip this summer? Ford Motor Co. and Google have joined forces to make it easier to get where you're headed.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automobile company Tuesday announced that it plans to add Google Maps to in-vehicle Ford Sync communications systems installed in some Ford and Lincoln Mercury brand vehicles. The Ford Sync factory-installed in-car communications and entertainment system was developed jointly by Ford and Microsoft.

The Google maps update, dubbed Send to Sync. is designed to enable people to send Google maps and directions from their computers or smart phones directly to their vehicles.

Google Maps is expected to be available by July 1 on all 2010 and 2011 models equipped with Sync.

"Printing paper directions from a Web site is a relic in our digital age," said Doug VanDagens, director of Ford Connected Services Solutions Organization, in a statement. "With Send to Sync, you can map a destination at home, at work -- wherever you have connectivity -- and when you get to your car, it already knows where you want to go. It's convenient and it eliminates the waste and distraction of paper maps, conserving resources while helping drivers keep their eyes on the road."

Researchers from multiple organizations have long been working to add various types of computer-aided driving capabilities to vehicles.

Last October, MIT announced that scientists there are working to develop a robot, called the Affective Intelligent Driving Agent (AIDA), that's would sit inside motor vehicles. According to MIT, the system is designed to change the way people interact with their vehicle, helping them avoid traffic jams and maybe even help find the cheapest gas along the route home from work.

And in the fall of 2007, Nissan showed off its Robot Agent at the Tokyo Motor Show.

The Robot Agent, designed to sit in the dashboard of the company's Pivo 2 concept car, uses built-in cameras to read the driver's facial queues for signs of fatigue or stress, and then nod, shake its head and even blink while it speaks in English or Japanese to talk the driver out of a bad mood. If that doesn't work, Robot Agent is programmed to suggest that the driver pull over and take a break.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld . Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin , or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com .

Read more about emerging technologies in Computerworld's Emerging Technologies Topic Center.

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