Ford, KU Collaborate on Connected Cars


When two proponents of cutting-edge technology decide to collaborate, it could mean something special. This is the case with KU (University of Kansas),, and Ford,, which announced a collaboration opportunity in which a team of students and faculty from the KU Center for Design Research will work to dream up new designs that may end up in future Ford vehicles.

KU’s Center for Design Research is already engaged in creating a so-called “smarter” dashboard console for automobiles aimed at reducing the potential for driver distraction. (The university has also partnered with Bayer HealthCare,, to develop connected healthcare applicatioa>.) Ford, on the other hand, is considered a leader in the connected-car space, thanks to its SYNC system, which connects devices within a vehicle cabin via Bluetooth and encourages voice-activated and hands-free controls.

Beginning early next year, KU says its students will have the opportunity to conceptualize new internal controls and interior layouts for Ford vehicles, which will be presented to the company at the end of the term. Specific project parameters and objectives will be given by Ford, along with access to a Ford engineer.

To secure this unique gig, Greg Thomas, director of the Center for Design Research, worked closely with the automaker, sending several KU-inspired designs ahead as a sort of “tryout.” One design particularly impressed—a “smart” child seat that would allow drivers to monitor their child in a less-distracted way.

The 2013 collaboration will be a win-win for not only the university and the automaker, but for the connected-car industry as a whole. As new bright minds come into the fold, new innovations promise to make consumers’ driving experience more connected—and more safe—than ever before.

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