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Summary:

Talking and texting on cell phones while driving might be banned in many states, but will it some day be the norm to use social networks and communication applications on screens embedded in vehicles? Some new apps offer a glimpse into the future.

Talking and texting on cell phones while driving might be banned in many states, but will it some day be the norm to use social networks and communication applications on screens embedded in vehicles? If the work recently created by the students at University of Michigan, in conjunction with Ford, Microsoft and Intel, is any indicator, there will be as many innovative social applications connecting us in our vehicles as there are on our Internet-connected laptops.

Take the Caravan Tracker, an application made by Team Bob Cat from the University of Michigan, which enables multiple cars to connect while on car trips in order to share information about how much gas is left in the fuel tanks, competing fuel economy between the cars, shared routes, and land marks and gas stations on the route ahead. Team Bob Cat has been testing out the application on their very own road trip this week, which will end on Friday with an appearance at the Maker Faire in San Mateo, Calif.

Other applications made by the students use in-vehicle social networking to help cut fuel consumption. The Fuel Tracker, made by Team Armadillo at the University of Michigan, records the real-time fuel economy of a vehicle and then compares that fuel economy to peers. The in-vehicle dashboard enables the driver to see other drivers that have driven the same, or similar routes, and suggests the best route for the best fuel economy. Another student team created an in-vehicle social ride-sharing platform, which can encourage on-the-go carpooling, and provides a rating and recommendation system for its users.

A fourth interesting app that’s a twist on in-vehicle traffic data is the crowd-sourced traffic mapping system called NostraMap, made by another group of students. Drivers can update the service in real time by noting where accidents or traffic backups have occurred, and the touchscreen system allows the driver to, for example, scrawl a quick “A” for “accident” on the screen with a fingertip.

The video below gives some quick interviews with the teammates and professors who were involved in the class, and you can check out this Facebook page for videos on all of the students’ applications. Is this the future of our connected vehicles?

For more research on connected cars check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Report: IT Opportunities in Electric Vehicle Management

The Developer’s Guide to Home Energy Management Apps

Why Microsoft’s Electric Vehicle Deal With Ford Matters

  1. Amazing! It seems like we are going to live on a social media based world. It keeps on surprising me the way in which social media has become the best way for the techonology industry to grow and improve its status. But I find even more surprising how social media, has become the basis for all sorts of businesses nowadays, even for our everyday’s lives.
    Great post-

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  2. Well, again I am in a car without a sound system of any sort. It is so nice! I have quit answering the cell phone, even to say “driving now, can’t talk.” Peer pressure mileage contests/comparisons seems so terribly wrong. Not in its noble goal, but in all the ways it goes at it. Inadequacy vs smugness…and the ever nipping at the heels hellhound of social pressure. Can’t we just….Or try my pencil and paper at the next fill up math moment. Close enough for civilian work…

    Gwen, is social media growing tech or merely spreading it into obvious places where we can’t but see it. That, as we know, is all it takes for creation /perception of “status” in the current “civilization” we are stuck in. S.M. does work well with meters (businesses), but part of our lives? only in virtual lifetyles to begin with. Some of us are noticing that some others are less and less willing to do fleshly interactions. And we don’t trust this asocial socialization, nor do we see a way to glean the real value from the googlplex of trivial bits.

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  3. [...] post by Katie Fehrenbacher and software by Elliott [...]

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  4. Ginny Skalski Monday, May 24, 2010

    It’s interesting that these students are creating applications that focus on tracking and measuring data and information. Certainly that’s a practical application. But I also think it would be neat to have an in-car app that is more focused on socializing. How neat would it be if on long car trips or commutes, you could start up a chat session with nearby drivers? It would be like a modern-day CB radio, only you could friend other drivers with similar interests. Obviously there would be safety considerations to work out. But ultimately, this could lead to even more in-person interactions. How many potential friends could you make out of fellow drivers on a long trip?

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