U.S. automaker Ford is partnering with Google to create an in-vehicle system that could receive data in real time and maximize the efficiency of hybrid or electric cars. The collaboration centers on something called the Google Prediction API, which in an optimized form, could help with things like suggesting the most fuel-efficient route taking into account real-time information such as traffic conditions and adapt based on a user's previous behavior.

Ford already offers some cloud-based entertainment and information services through its Ford SYNC in-vehicle system. But this technology will be exclusively focused on the driver, logging and analyzing his driving history to anticipate his needs. In one scenario outlined by Ford engineers, by studying a user's driving patterns the system would try to predict where the driver is going and then optimize the upcoming trip with regards to fuel efficiency and pollution, deciding where a hybrid car should use the gasoline engine and where it should employ the battery.

Google's cloud computing will provide more computing power and data storage capacity than could reasonably be packed into a car. There aren't many details available for now but Ford was quick to stress that the Google Prediction API will be an option in its cars, not a basic feature, and any information collected will be encrypted. With Google's not so great record on privacy you can understand why they are anticipating some concern from users.

The collaboration is in the preliminary stages of R&D, so it will still be a few years before we see cars with this sort of technology on the market, but Ford maintains it is committed to the project. The company has been working on predictive driver behavior for two years and says a production-ready system could be here in four to eight years.