Meet AJ, the Ford Fiesta That Tweets
Ford engineers gave AJ (short for American Journey 2.0) the ability to connect to the Internet by outfitting him with a Dell computer running Windows 7, a Wi-Fi router and a high-speed cellular connection. They set him up with his own Twitter account (AJtheFiesta), and connected his internal sensors, as well as data streamed from the Web, to his automotive brain. And so AJ tweets, "It might as well snow... ugh. Current conditions: partly cloudy (day)." Ignoring the fact that AJ was attending the Bay Area Maker Faire at the time of that tweet, and that San Francisco was in no danger of snowfall, you must admit that AJ's ability to report on his own condition and that of the world around him is remarkable.
That is, until you ask the inevitable question: "Why?"
According to the New York Times, Ford has plans to include smartphone connectivity in its SYNC cars (which already offer hands-free calling and "vehicle health report" options) later this year. Including a jalopy-generated Twitter feed must have seemed like the obvious next step in this process. AJ is a testing ground for this experiment, and his ability to tweet with autonomy reflects both the current obsession with social networking and the growing fascination with artificial intelligence.
In his tweets, AJ will tell when his fuel is low, how the weather fares, and how traffic moves throughout his journey. This could be helpful to followers of AJ or his potential kin, as drivers could use his tweets as real-time updates on road conditions. But AJ's Twitter "voice" is that of a human, and sometimes reads like the most banal of tweets: "It's getting pretty dark; time to put the headlights on." That may be helpful to a blind person, or an alien unaccustomed to our planetary orbit, but it otherwise falls into the realm of Useless Updates.
We wonder why the Ford engineers would choose to imbue some kind of off-the-cuff narrative to AJ's tweets (e.g., "Dude lots of traffic!") rather than post hard data. Sure, the tweets are cute for a time, but weather reports are intriguing to only the most anally analytical of minds. AJ runs the risk of falling back on what Twitter used to be -- a repository of the banal rather than a real-time stream of the world's goings-on. The auto's talkativeness is exacerbated by his being connected to FourSquare, through which he will "check-in" at hotspots automatically. So we're torn as to whether AJ represents a necessary evolution in social networking and automotive gadgetry, or just bandwagon-hopping at its unnecessary worst. [From: New York Times]