Tag: Ford

Car makers build charging station network

Old carsIn a sign that carmakers are gearing up for the electric car revolution, BMW , Daimler , Ford, and Volkswagen have entered into a partnership to create a network of high-speed charging stations for electric vehicles across Europe.

The new chargers will be capable of giving up to 350 kW of power which is three times more than Tesla’s Supercharging stations and according to a statement from the Big Motor the result will be “the highest-powered charging network in Europe”.

Construction of the network  will begin in 2017 with “about 400 sites” being targeted, and that the network will have “thousands of high-powered charging points” available by 2020.

The four major conglomerates will be “equal partners” in the joint venture, but according to the statement they are encouraging other manufacturers to “participate in the network”.

The move is designed to head off a standards war happening with fast charging networks. The charging network announced today will use the Combined Charging System (CCS) technology, which is what that most major automakers already use for their EVs.

Nissan, Toyota, and Honda are not big fans of CCS, because many of their EVs and plug-in hybrids use a competing standard known as CHAdeMO.

Ford’s in-car infotainment a “polished turd”

60Edsel-largeWhile the IT industry falls over itself to get its technology into motors, Ford is discovering the hard way what happens when they get it wrong.

A court case into the infotainment system Ford installed in its cars has opened in the US and lawyers for the complainants have got their paws on some rather damaging emails from Ford engineers which show their low opinion of the system.

One engineer describes the system as a “polished turd” and another worries that it is unsellable.

Documents in a class-action lawsuit against Ford and its original MyFord Touch in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system in a 2013 lawsuit show Ford engineers believed the IVI, which was powered by the SYNC operating system launched in 2010, might be “unsaleable” and even described a later upgrade as a “polished turd.”

At the centre of the problem was Microsoft’s SYNC OS which Vole continued releasing software revisions it knew were defective.

“In the spring of 2011, Ford hired Microsoft to oversee revisions, and hopefully the improvement, of the [software]. But … Microsoft was unable to meaningfully improve the software, and Ford continued releasing revised software that it knew was still defective,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit describes an IVI screen that would freeze or go blank; generate error messages that wouldn’t go away; voice recognition and navigation systems that failed to work, problems wirelessly pairing with smartphones, and a generally slow system.

Ford’s CEO Mark Fields even moaned that the SYNC IVI was pants having crashed on several occasions. The court case revealed that he was so frustrated with the system “he may have damaged his car’s screen out of aggravation.”

Fields, who was president of Ford’s Americas division at the time penned an angry email saying that he was once again having many problems with my Sync system.  “And yes, you guys already installed version 3.5!!!”

Three months later, Fields expressed his frustration with customers who had to wait for fixes and stated, “I don’t even use the system anymore”.

Ironically Henry Ford’s great grandson experienced significant problems with SYNC and was forced to wait on a roadside for the system to reset and could not continue to drive because he was unable to use the IVI’s navigation system.  For those who don’t know Ford’s grandson had a car named after him – the Edsel.

The Tame Apple press assures us that last year, Ford rolled out a software upgrade to its SYNC infotainment system that lets iPhone users wirelessly access Siri Eyes-Free capabilities over Bluetooth and it now uses Apple Maps.

What they are less likely to tell you is that the system also has glitches. For example, when using it to look up phone numbers for points of interest, such as a restaurant, the system will find the phone number but fails to dial it on command.


VW locking is a doddle to break

vwHitler’s favourite car company, VW, is in hot water over its electronic key which has a security vulnerably which makes it easy for hackers to open the car doors.

According to Wired,  security researchers found they can  use software defined radio (SDR) to remotely unlock hundreds of millions of cars.

Led by Flavio Garcia at the University of Birmingham in the UK, the group of hackers reverse-engineered an undisclosed Volkswagen component to extract a cryptographic key value that is common to many of the company’s vehicles.

When combined with the unique value encoded on an individual vehicle’s remote key fob—obtained with a little electronic eavesdropping, say—you have a functional clone that will lock or unlock that car. VW has apparently acknowledged the vulnerability and has changed some of the numbering on new parts.

The UoB also found another security hole which affects Alfa Romeo, Citroën, Fiat, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, and Peugeot.

It exploits a much older cryptographic scheme used in key fobs called HiTag2. The hacker has to do some electronic eavesdropping to capture a series of codes sent out by a remote key fob. Once a few codes had been gathered, the encryption scheme can be encyrpted in under a minute.

When the attacks might appear a bit convoluted, it is thought that they are behind a rash of car thefts, including a few in the US as hackers exploit the power of 1990s-era automotive-grade encryption with cheap hacking gear.

Ford signs up to build Google self-driving car

167848480-jumping-out-traffic-safety-train-crash-ford-model-tGoogle and Ford will create a joint venture to build self-driving vehicles with Google’s technology.

The partnership is set to be announced by Ford at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Ford gets a boost in self-driving software development. It has been experimenting with its own systems for years, it only revealed plans this month to begin testing on public streets in California. Google has 53 test vehicles on the road in California and Texas, with 1.3 million miles logged in autonomous driving.

By pairing with Ford, the search engine giant avoids spending billions of dollars and several years that building its own automotive manufacturing expertise would require.

Earlier this year, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said the company was looking for manufacturing partners that would use the company’s self-driving system, which it believes could someday eliminate the roughly 33,000 annual deaths on US roads.

The venture would be legally separate from Ford, in part to shield the automaker from liability concerns. Questions of who will be responsible for any crashes involving self-driving cars have been seen as a major hurdle to putting them on the road. Volvo said it would accept responsibility for crashes in autonomous mode, a pledge followed by Google and Mercedes-Benz.

Google has been talking to several other automakers for some time about using its self-driving systems. Most major automakers and several auto parts suppliers are developing their own self-driving controls as well, with a few—Nissan, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz among them—promising advanced vehicles for customer sales by 2020.

Car makers read the riot act to tech companies

Old carsWhile tech companies are rushing to make deals with car makers for high tech autos, a spat is developing over all that data the cars generate.

The technology companies want from the car makers –  besides stonking profits and mark-ups – is the data they collect on car users.

Apple and Google have been particularly clear that they want that data to do whatever they do with it — advertising, spamming and spying. However car makers are limiting the data they share with technology partners and are defending access to information about what drivers do in their cars.

It is not out of a desire to protect users’ privacy. The car makers are aware the vehicle data will one day generate billions of dollars in e-commerce, though they are just beginning to form strategies for monetising the information.

According to Reuters , which is always ready to defend Apple’s side of the story, some auto companies have specifically said they will not provide Apple and Google with data from the vehicle’s functional systems – steering, brakes and throttle, for instance – as well as information about range, a measure of how far the car can travel before it runs out of gas.

Don Butler, Ford Motor executive director of connected vehicle and services said the company needed to control access to that data to protect our ability to create value from new digital services built on vehicle data.

Ford is installing a proprietary system, Sync 3, in its cars that is designed to work with and supplement CarPlay and Android Auto.

General Motors has told investors earlier this year that it expects to realize an additional $350 million in revenue over three years from the high-speed data connections it is building into its cars.

Still to be answered, however, are questions concerning how comfortable consumers will be with sharing their personal information from the vehicle. In addition, state and federal regulators could impose limits on data-gathering and sharing.

In this case the carmakers have an answer – users have been giving this data to Apple and Google for years and don’t give a monkeys. At least now they are giving to people who are actually interested in their driving habits. I blame Microsoft, actually.

Ford ditches Microsoft

The former maker of the Model T, Ford has decided that Microsoft is too expensive and is going to shove Blackberry tech under the bonnet of its cars.

Using the QNX operating system will be less expensive for Ford than licensing Microsoft technology and will improve the flexibility and speed of the next Sync system, the company claims.

According to the Seattle Times, Ford has had few problems with in-car technology flaws, and has decided to base the next-generation Sync system on BlackBerry’s QNX and no longer use Microsoft’s Windows.

QNX is cheaper, more flexibile and faster when used with Ford’s Sync system. Ford has more than 7 million vehicles on the road with Sync using Microsoft voice-activated software to make mobile-phone calls and play music.

For BlackBerry, it is a vote of support for a company that lost 95 percent of its value from mid-2008 to November and saw the collapse of a proposed $4.7 billion buyout.

Curiously, Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally was said to be a candidate to become Microsoft’s chief until early this year. Obviously the fact he did not think that Vole’s software was much cop for his cars might have made him wonder if moving to Redmond was such a good idea. 

Microsoft leaks CEO short list

Microsoft has released the short list of candidates to replace Chief Executive Steve Ballmer .

According to Reuters, five people including Ford Motor chief Alan Mulally and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, have been named and shamed in a leaked list.

There are three internal candidates for the job including Skype CEO Tony Bates, who is now responsible for Microsoft’s business development, and Satya Nadella, the company’s cloud and enterprise chief,.

Apparently, it will take a few more months to weed out the weedy from the list. We guess there have to be interviews, bake-offs, and obstacle courses. Gordon Ramsey will be called into to shout at candidates that their medium business plan is so rare that it would be impossible to have it aborted in Texas.

Reuters said that it could not find the name of the other candidates who were involved in the selection process. It seems that there were about 40 of them.

News that Alan Mulally was shortlisted was news to Ford, which said that he remained fully focused on continuing to make progress on his glorious One Ford plan.

Investors want someone like Mulally or Computer Sciences CEO Mike Lawrie, to succeed Ballmer. They also want Bill Gates to go because he stands in the way of a radical shake-up which would result in more cash going to them. We probably should not look to investors to come up with a sensible technology plan to make Vole more relevant.

Mulally, 68, is credited with inspiring a cultural change that helped Ford reverse its losses and avert a federal bailout in 2009. He has said that he will stay with the company until 2014. 

Ford invades Silicon Valley

Automotive giant Ford is planning on opening an R&D centre in Silicon Valley in the first quarter of this year. 

The company claims its new lab, in the San Francisco Bay area, will become a hub for independent technology projects and will work with innovators nearby, including universities like Stanford. It isn’t giving away too many details just yet, but says the number of employees at the lab will be “comparable to what you expect of a startup, with an emphasis on quality over quantity” – so not many, then.

Its Ford Research and Innovation group, the engineering wing, will be looking at areas like wireless connectivity, energy storage, sensing systems and autonomous vehicles. The lab will continue Ford’s work in personal mobility, open source hardware and software developer kits, and its idea of the car as a sensor – using data from invidiual cars packed with sensors to feed that data elsewhere.

Ford is keen to paint itself as an innovator and will be presenting a keynote at Mobile World Congress to outline ‘Ford’s future vision’.

Senior technical man at Ford Research and Innovation suggested in a statement that the Silicon Valley base will be well placed for any partnerships or shopping sprees: “With so many opportunities and so much potential, our new lab will allow us to scout new technologies and partners in their own environment,” he said. 

Schick as a parrot, stuck at CES – foam for all at MGM Grand

Lobbed down in Vegas, stopping at the Golden Nugget, where I tipped up first at a Comdex in 1987. Made my way via a Hackney Cab to the MGM Grand where Pepcom is giving the organisers of the CES show a run for its money.

Pepcom guarantees to the vendors a whole gaggle of hacks from around the world, including the Known World of America. 175 vendors were happy to chat to us about sausage rolls, razors and Swiss Army knives while the beer was cheap. You get more beer if you repeatedly tip the long suffering staff on the periphery of the giant venue.

We were particularly interested in the interwibble of things – so got our act together to ask Schick how many semiconductors were embedded in its new razor, the incredible Hydro 5 Power Select with AAA battery, complete with gel reservoir. Schick even threw a canister of foam in too. The answer is five, but the question when we woke up jet lagged at 3:15AM was how do we get the effing packaging off. The verdict, shave wise? Not bad. And certainly a lot cheaper than the crap we bought at Flitwick which didn’t even come with foam.

From Schick a schort hop, schip and jump to Ford. We asked the same question of Ford for the car it was showing off – the answer is north of 650 chips. We wondered whether cars and razors were hackable, before wandering off to watch Hexus.net interview a guy from Corning about its famous Gorilla Glass. Luke, the camera man, egged on by Tarindrer and David Ross, refused to be drawn on how many semiconductors fitted into a glass half full..

We bumped into Fudo who started necking our beer but as the beer was free that seemed like not a bad deal.

It’s a long walk to get to the Grand Ballroom in the MGM, er Grand. They have pictures of pop stars on your long walk through – we were particularly taken by a shot of the Rolling Stones – one with Brian Jones, one sans Brian Jones. Where’s Knebworth? Ah yeah, we remember.

We popped by to meet those nice people from Kingston, here for the show and of course brought back fab memories of Laguna Beach. The guys are showing off the 16GB Wi-Drive, this nice little number describes itself as portable wireless storage for iPads and iPhones. These guys were just round the corner from Nook, which stays bullish despite the threat from the Amazonian Kindle and its ilk. Really a nice little reader, all in all.

Swiss Army knives that are USB sticks – do we really need them? A Swiss Army Knife has its uses but a USB stick can’t get a stone out of a horse’s hoof nor act as an ersatz screwdriver when you need to cut down a bunch of acorns and make a cup of instant, sort-of coffee.

We visited www.tagg.com – the pet tracker. This lot have a collar you can place round the neck of a pooch so when it goes missing it will email you with its GPS location. Yeah, they will do them for cats and hamsters too when Moore’s Law kicks in and they shrink the die.

Samsung was a lot of fun. The guys from Olympus looked a bit down in the dumps. AMD was bullish. Couldn’t spot Intel in the El Grando Ballroom at ‘El on Earth MGM Grand. But Intel has bigger fish to fry.

There were a few Ultrabooks being shown off by Asus and Lenovo – but we guess Intel is making everyone keep their powder dry. AMD showed off a notebook too – not an Ultrabook of course, but an ultra-thin notebook…

Ford hit by tech patent case

A tech company has sued Ford claiming several of the electronic features the automaker includes in its vehicles were its bright idea. 

It is a little surprising to see an outfit like Ford involved in a patent case, which is usually the realm of software and hardware trolls.

However Eagle Harbor Holdings and subsidiary, MediusTech, claim that if it wins it could score millions from the carmaker.

According to APthe lawsuit centres on patents involving software and electronic components that are used in features to make phone calls, play music and access navigation tools with vocal commands.

Eagle Harbor said that the patents also make possible car safety features that rely on sensors, such as parking assistance and stability control.

Ford uses technology in multiple vehicle systems, including SYNC, Active Park Assist, Blind-Spot Identification System with Cross Traffic Alert, Integrated Control System for Stability Control and MyKey.

Eagle Harbor, said that it has been meeting with Ford in 2002 to discuss the potential use of its patented technology in Ford vehicles, but Ford broke off discussions in 2008. After that Eagle Harbor noticed Ford vehicles featured electronic systems that infringed on its patents.