We had a chance to sit down with Ford’s chief technical officer Paul Mascarenas at the big CES technology trade show this week, where the U.S. car maker unveiled a few new ideas including a new solar-powered concept car, a Mustang bristling with driver-assist technology and some usability improvements and apps for its Sync infotainment system.
The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept car is a plug-in hybrid with photovoltaic panels on its roof that, when parked under the solar concentrator lens Ford had on display, can fully charge the battery in one day. The normal C-MAX has a range of 620 miles but Ford says it can go 21 miles on sunshine alone, which is probably more than enough range for the average trip. Ford worked with engineers at Georgia Tech to come up with the idea of the concentrator canopy and an on-board computer system that moves the car a few inches at a time to follow the sun so it always has the maximum charge going. Ford also showed off a new cherry-red Mustang with driver-assistance, forward collision warning, and has a performance boost to help with your acceleration.
The Mustang will also be Ford’s first production model in North America to feature an enhanced new version of Ford’s SYNC AppLink, which lets drivers and passengers talk to the car to control popular iPhone and Android apps such as NPR, Spotify and TuneIn. Once the Mustang rolls out, Ford will make the new version of AppLink available to owners of Ford models going back to 2010. This will increase the number of Sync-powered vehicles on the road from one million to 3.4 million. Ford also announced five new apps (60 are already available) including music app Habu, parking apps Parkopedia and ParkMobile, and Domino’s Pizza and ADT Pulse, so you can order a pizza and turn the lights on before you pull into the driveway.
Mascarenas takes a broad definition of the idea of the connected vehicle, with Sync being the most mass-market concept of them all. It was introduced 6 years ago at CES with Microsoft, and there are now 8 million vehicles on the road with Sync. Despite taking some much deserved knocks for its glitches, Sync is improving steadily and becoming a safer option for drivers than fumbling with a phone in traffic.