Fuel-Finding Tool Wins Ford's Smartphone App Contest

Three Rules: No Games, No Videos and No Distracting Text

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Ford Motor Co. has rewarded a company for creating a smartphone app that promises to make finding fuel easier.

Team FuelSignal developed an application called FuelSignal that helps motorists locate gasoline stations, buy discounted gasoline and receive loyalty credits.

Team FuelSignal emerged as the winner from among the 10 contestants that showed off their apps at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month. The 10 companies worked with Ford for two months to develop their apps on Ford's Sync AppLink platform.

Team FuelSignal's reward will be to launch its application officially with Ford at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, said Elizabeth Halash, a Ford engineer. The consumer electronics show is in January.

Ford and other automakers are trying to make autos friendly to heavy users of smartphones. At the same time, they want to maintain control over new apps to limit driver distraction.

Ford supplied each of the 10 contestants with a Technology Development Kit, what Ms. Halash refers to as "Sync-in-a-Box." Each of the units is worth about $5,000 and simulates the center console of a vehicle equipped with the Sync voice recognition and control system.

The FuelSignal app is available free for Apple and Android mobile devices. Motorists can use the app to get discounts on fuel and merchandise in stores participating in the program, according to Zul Momin, founder and CEO of Team FuelSignal.

When a user's smartphone or other mobile device paired with Ford's Sync system is loaded with the app, FuelSignal monitors the fuel level. When the fuel starts to get low, FuelSignal alerts the driver and notifies the consumer with a list of gas stations nearby offering discounts.

Ford kicked off the competition at an all-night "hackathon" at the company's App Pursuit conference in Las Vegas in September.

Ms. Halash said Ford had only three basic rules: no games, no videos and no apps that display a lot of distracting text on the screen.

Ford hopes to encourage an open environment so developers don't have to develop individual apps for each carmaker.

"We want to expand to other car companies," Ms. Halash said. "We open source."

-- Bradford Wernle is a reporter for Automotive News