Ford Starts a New Game with the Focus EV

Ford Starts a New Game with the Focus EV


Ford is undergoing a transformation. Coming out of the financial crisis and the collapse of the US market as the only major American car company to not receive a bail out, Ford has taken it upon itself to reinvent an industry that in the past has been represented by gas guzzling SUVs and American muscle cars. At last week’s Internet Week New York, Gamification Co sat down with Joseph Rork, Product Engineer with Ford and MyFord Mobile, to discuss some of the things that Ford is doing with gamification to make drivers more aware of the impacts of driving and have more fun in the process.


The American Journey 2.0

In 2010, Joseph was part of the partnership between Ford, Microsoft, Intel, and the University of Michigan that tested ideas for the future of car connectivity. The American Journey 2.0 took an unassuming Ford Fiesta and souped it up to include sensors, cameras, and an “auto”matic blog, naming it “AJ the Fiesta”.

“Now keep in mind, we are a bunch of geeks that developed this thing, right? So we basically sat there and had free reign to do whatever we wanted, and write apps that would make our trip from Detroit to San Francisco awesome,” Joseph said.

AJ was able to upload information and road conditions in the form of a “mood” that personified the driving data from the car. If the car was cruising and the weather was nice, AJ was “blissful”. Stuck in traffic, AJ became “bored”.

Ford American Journey

The goal was to increase the speed of the Internet. Even with mobile technologies, the online world is “location-based” rather than keeping track of progress and movement, “We had this hypothesis that the Internet was created for the ‘speed of zero’ and we wanted to see the Internet at the speed of a vehicle.”


Lessons Learned

From this first experiment in putting a car on the social graph came many ideas for using all of these interactive features to understand and engage with your car, “We had a lot of fun with the games we put in our car for [the American Journey 2.0], and it wasn’t just about fun. There were a lot of things that we learned from the “mood” of the car. There are a lot of things that we learned that can actually make its way into production in other ways.”

By connecting with drivers on an emotional level, the games have the ability to better understand impact and make driving more efficient. Most notable are the interactive features in Ford’s upcoming Focus EV.

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are just beginning to hit the mainstream market. After a long period of red tape and difficulties (Who Killed the Electric Car?), competition for the EV market is increasing. But driving an EV is not just like driving a gas powered vehicle or even a hybrid.

I think the most complex thing on the vehicle was making it simple. One alternative to teaching someone about owning an EV is sit them down in a six-week class and show them all the different things that they would have to worry about… I mean there’s just a dizzying amount of information. So we had to sit there and find out, “What is it that you need to use on day one when you buy the vehicle? How do we get you that information in a nice clear concise way that is not obnoxious and not difficult to find?”

The team’s solution was a series of apps and dashboard interfaces brought together through a mobile application in MyFord Mobile.


From One Car’s Journey to a Community Quest

As you can see in the video, the dashboard has a “butterfly game” that helps drivers visualize their efficiency while driving and gives recommendations for where to charge. Even more exciting is the collection of badges and achievement’s Ford is using to onboard users in the complexities of having an EV.

Ford Set out to accomplish three things with the badges:

  • Onboarding: badges to help you learn and get you through the first steps of owning a vehicle.
  • Community: badges that correspond to asking questions,  participating in replies, and writing posts.
  • Impact: achievements around environmental impact. For example: a badge for a certain amount of CO2 saved, or when you hit a certain amount of miles driven, to remind you, “Hey, don’t forget you did a great thing buy buying an EV, and we applaud you for it. So we kind of give this nice assurance that you did the right thing.”
  • Top Secret: “And there is this fourth quiet category that are sort of fun achievements,” but Joseph couldn’t share those without giving up the game.

Similar to many of the applications of gamification for sustainability, Ford hopes to expand their support for the EV community beyond just their own cars, “We recognize that the EV community is a very small community. And it doesn’t make any sense for Ford to section off just Ford EV users. We really want to foster a full EV community. There are a lot of things that should be shared… and we want to foster those conversations and help people share their information out as easily as possible.”

Ford is doing some innovative and creative things to educate consumers, and probably sell some cars in the process. By using gamification, they are helping more people along the journey to mastering their own environmental impact.


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  1. For one, I think gamification will make it more fun to drive efficiently; it’s almost a similar to a video game. As for the interactive community forums; I know that many companies have auto forums but I don’t think I’ve seen any that have it actually integrated into the dashboard. That’s quite revolutionary. Very savvy of Ford to focus on the EV as a community as a whole (which is still very, very small) instead of only Ford EV users (which is even way smaller).

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