Last week I was flown by Ford to their global Go Further Trend Conference in Dearborn , the conference was a mix of speaker panels discussing trends affecting Ford and the industry, tours of Fords R&D facilities and driving experiences. While the trend sessions where interesting it was much more interesting meeting the actual Ford personnel who had a real passion for their products. I met up with the designers working on the next generation of Ford cars and how they use clay models to assist in designing the car, they use full sized models of the car to get a feel of how they look and then the model is digitally scanned so they can re-produce another full model again out of clay.
We also had a tour of the virtual reality setup Ford use to test the interior designs of the cars, using VR they can test the positions of controls and make sure they are practical for a range of users. They also emulate the in car sounds and can experiment with how the engine sounds in the interior. (You can see the video of the VR room here here)
I also had a presentation of the next (and un-released) version of Ford Sync that adds extra cloud features like being able to use voice to send messages to Google Chat, video of that here.
There were some interesting talks mainly from Ford Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Alan Mulally. Bill Ford talked a lot about changing Ford’s direction to a more environmentally aware company and new products like the all electric Focus. Alan Mulally talked about focusing the Ford brand and turning the company into technology company with new car and engine designs as well as in car technology like Ford Sync (working with Microsoft).
The final evening dinner was held at a TechShopin Dearborn which was really fun, TechShop is workshop club where you can join and then use their equipment to actually make things, we tried making frosted beer glasses and watched sumo wrestling bots made at the TechShop. It’s a great idea to have a space where you can actually make something and it would be great to see something like that over here.
The highlight of the trip was the test track were I got to drive some fantastic cars. The electric Ford Focus was a lot faster than I thought it would be, although the way I drove it would mean that would the battery would be flat before I got to the office each morning.
Driving the Ford Police Interceptor was fantastic, for a big car it handled very well and it was great to be able to drive it as fast as I could. The highlight for me was driving the Ford Mustang, it’s a true American Muscle car and a brilliant drive. The traction control and stability control saved me more than once but it was great fun. I was also taken out in the V8 Mustang by a professional driver at the test track and that was incredible, all the driver aids were turned off and the driver drove the marked out track sideways managing to burn out a set of brand-new tyres in a couple of hours. You can see a video of me driving here and the professional here.
A trip to the Henry Ford Museum
Ford R&D labs
Ford Test Track Day