Carmaker Ford Motor is harnessing the power of cloud computing, analytics and Google innovation to make smart cars.

The researchers will apply Google's Prediction API to more than two years of their own predictive driver behavior research and analysis. The API will be able to use historical driving data and turn it into real time predictions, such as where a driver is headed at the time of a departure. The API uses Google's machine learning algorithms to make smarter apps smarter.

The Google Prediction API allows us to utilize information that an individual driver creates over time and make that information actionable, said Ryan McGee, technical expert, Vehicle Controls Architecture and Algorithm Design, Ford Research and Innovation. Between Google Prediction and our own research, we are discovering ways to make information work for the driver and help deliver optimal vehicle performance.

Last week, Ford researchers presented a conceptual case of how the Google Prediction API could alter the performance of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the 2011 Google I/O developer conference.

During the presentation, after a vehicle owner opts in to use the service, an encrypted driver data usage profile is built based on routes and time of travel. In essence, the system learns key information about how the driver is using the vehicle. Google Prediction will use historical driving behavior to evaluate given the current time of day and location to develop a prediction of the most likely destination and how to optimize driving performance to and from that location.

Once the destination is confirmed, the vehicle would have instant access to a variety of real-time information so it can optimize its performance, even against factors that the driver may not be aware of, such as an EV-only zone, said McGee.

Apart from helping the driver it also helps in overall fuel and energy efficiency during the vehicle ownership experience. Work is now underway to study the feasibility of incorporating other variables such as driver style and habits into the optimization process so Ford can further optimize vehicle control systems, allowing car and driver to work together to maximize energy efficiency, the carmaker said.

We realize that the nature of this research includes the use of personal data and location awareness, something we are committed to protecting for our customers in everything we do. A key component of this project is looking at how to develop secure personal profiles that will ensure appropriate levels of protection and specific data use only by the driver and the vehicle to deliver the best driving experience, Johannes Kristinsson,  a system architect at Ford Research and Innovation, said in a statement.