Ford is teaming up with Google in its efforts to further advance ongoing research in predicting driver behaviour, with the aim of helping to optimise vehicle control systems and improve vehicle performance attributes such as fuel or hybrid-electric efficiency.

The blue oval has already been actively carrying out predictive driver behavior research and analysis on its own, but the utilisation of Google’s Prediction API will provide greater computation power, information storage and external data through cloud computing, which will convert historical driving data – the where and when you drive – into useful real-time predictors, such as where a driver is headed at the time of departure.

Ford is looking at this to empower vehicles to offer drivers smart guidance based on learned behaviors and a variety of captured data, and make tomorrow’s vehicles smart enough to independently change how they perform to deliver optimal driveability and fuel efficiency. The company is hoping to use these types of cloud-stored data to enable a vehicle essentially to optimise itself and perform in the best manner determined by a predicted route.

Here’s how it works in a theoretical scenario. 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.

Upon starting 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 optimise driving performance to and from that location. For example, if the driver is heading to work, an optimised powertrain control strategy would be created for the trip.

A predicted route of travel could include an area restricted to electric-only driving, if the vehicle is a hybrid or EV. Therefore, the vehicle could program itself to optimise energy usage over the total distance of the route in order to preserve enough battery power to switch to all-electric mode when traveling within the EV-only zone.

Because of the large amount of computing power necessary to make the predictions and optimisation, an off-board system that connects through the cloud is currently necessary. In any case, it still looks like it’ll be some time before it makes its way into production vehicles.

The company already offers cloud-based services through Ford SYNC, but those services thus far have only been used for infotainment, navigation and real-time traffic purposes to empower the driver. Work is now underway to study the feasibility of incorporating other variables such as driver style and habits into the optimisation process, so vehicle control systems can be optimised further, allowing car and driver to work together for best efficiency.