The project – described in full over on CrunchGear – is based around technology developed by the University of Michigan with one aim: to make a vehicle the platform for social networking. Okay, two aims: to give Ford some cheap advertising for the 2011 range of Fiestas.
The package responsible for the tweets, running on an in-car computer, is known as the “Auto”matic Blog. Designed to hook in to the in-car ECU and read engine information – including, according to Ford engineers, “engine rpm, speed, steering inputs, g-loads, that sort of thing” – the software is designed to trigger an automatic tweet whenever anything interesting, such as sudden acceleration, deceleration, or swerving, happens during the car’s journey across the country. A camera is also included, which takes regular snapshots of the – sometimes worried – expressions crossing its passengers’ faces.
The “Auto”matic Blog isn’t the only software the cars will be running, either: a team of Ford engineers will be traveling in a car equipped with Virtual Road Rally, a package which tracks the car’s location via GPS and guides the user along waypoints and points of interest to a predermined ‘treasure trove’ location – a kind of car-based geocaching.
A team of students from the University of Michigan will also be making the journey with an app of their own: Caravan Track. Dispensing with the games and tweets of the previous apps, Caravan Track is a clever bit of kit that allows multiple vehicles traveling together to share information about road conditions and other experiences, with information gathered by the lead car being automatically transmitted to its followers.
The cars can be tracked during their journey in a variety of ways. The official website has a live gas mileage graph, while the most obvious method of seeing what the team is up to would be to follow the car itself on Twitter – user @AJtheFiesta. For those using geolocated social network Foursquare, the team has even rigged the car to automatically check in when it nears a registered location.
The American Journey 2.0 project is live now, and will continue as the teams travel across the US to California for the Maker Faire.