Ford makes a big play at Consumer Electronics Show

Car giant is working on drone links to cars and with Amazon on home-car links

Car giant Ford has revealed plans for its drone-to-vehicle technology that could be used to help emergency services.

At the company's CES press conference chief executive Mark Fields took to the stage to reveal how Ford was rethinking its approach to the motor industry, including partnerships with home automation companies and opening up its in-car infotainment system.

The car maker has teamed up with drone firm DJI to help drones and vehicles work more closely with each other. The companies have issued a challenge to developers to create drone-to-vehicle communications using Ford Sync AppLink or OpenXC, which could help emergency services responding to earthquakes or tsunamis to deploy the drones to survey the disaster zones.

The winner of the challenge will get $100,000.


The internet of things was also on Ford's mind, as it revealed the company is developing ways to pair Sync-equipped cars with the smart home. It's currently working with Amazon Echo to enable voice control between the car and the home, which would open up the possibility of accessing connected home systems such as lights and security from their car, while also being able to start and stop the car engine or check on vital systems from the comfort of their home."Consumers increasingly want to stay connected to their homes while on the move," said Ford's Don Butler, executive director of Connected Vehicle and Services. "Linking smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to vehicles via SYNC would fulfill that desire, and allow consumers to connect with their vehicles even when they aren't behind the wheel."

Although Ford is offering Apple's CarPlay and Android Auto to customers, it is still pressing ahead with its own SmartDeviceLink connectivity platform, with both Toyota and QNX now supporting the open source platform.

Ford is also planning to make a major move on the electric vehicle market, launching 13 vehicles within the next four years and investing an additional $4.5 billion in the sector.

The company is tripling its fleet of Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicles this year, with Ford's executive vice president of global product development Raj Nair describing it as a clear sign of the company's commitment to make autonomous vehicles available for millions of people. "With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter," he said.

The new generation of autonomous cars will have the new solid state puck sensors, which are roughly the size of two or three hockey pucks stacked together.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist