This App Will Give You Butterflies … But Only if You’re Good

Forward with Ford really opened my eyes on the philosophy behind America’s biggest car maker. The conference opened with an inspiring speech by Malcolm Gladwell, author of the book “Tipping Point,” in which he traced the evolution of personal empowerment from the 1970s up to now and took this point to demonstrate Ford’s consumer-centric approach.

It is a reciprocal relationship, one in which Ford listens as well as educates. Like other car makers, Ford works hard to stay competitive by developing sophisticated tools and fun interfaces, like adding Pandora radio and Twitter feeds to the new SYNC in-dash displays. They have developed a series of digital platforms and apps, all aimed at providing the consumer with the same comforts and capabilities inside a car as they enjoy outside of it.

Not surprisingly, some consumers and car experts have been critical of the complexity and occasional difficulty of operation associated with these sophisticated systems. Perhaps this depends upon how tech-savvy the user is?

What impressed me the most was a range of features found across the various platforms that inspire sustainable behavior by either tracking the driver’s performance, benchmarking against other drivers or cars, or issuing positive reinforcement in the form of butterflies.

MyFord Mobile and MyFord Touch encourage you to drive smart by displaying neat things like how much money and how many pounds of CO2 you’ve saved by not filling up with gas. There’s an on-board coaching feature that helps you drive in the most efficient way possible without sacrificing performance. And the fun doesn’t stop there: you can compete with other EV drivers and family members!

MyFord Mobile is a downloadable app that works with all smartphones, it uses wireless technology to communicate with your car every time you insert your key and sends data to your mobile device or computer. This gives a new EV owner the peace of mind to know exactly how much charge and range they have and helps them transition more seamlessly to EV driving. The app tackles the issue of range anxiety, which is perceived as a stumbling block in consumer conversion to EVs. Here is a modest list of the app’s functions:

  • Shows charge remaining in percentage or miles
  • Schedule charging using remote access capabilities
  • View and add your own charging stations
  • Build your trip efficiently based on distances, direction, or charging
  • Warm up or cool down your vehicle while charging it so it’s exactly how you want it when you get in

A glimpse into the future: using smart grid technology and integration with the utility, it may be possible to automatically charge your EV when electric rates are at their lowest.

Will MyFord Touch and My Ford Mobile make us better drivers? Only time will tell. But in any case, they represent a shift towards a more thoughtful driving and, hopefully, living.

Kate Shifman is a New Yorker, sustainability professional, photographer, and publisher of SolarInTheCity, a solar and energy efficiency guide for the city dweller

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