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CES Feature Articles

January 07, 2011

CES News: Auto Industry Takes the Wheel at Vegas Event

Americans love their cars. They’re pretty keen on their consumer electronics too. So marrying the two just seems to be a natural thing to do. (Just make sure you don’t veer off a cliff in the process.)

The automotive industry has a strong presence at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, with companies like Audi and Hyundai operating huge booths on the show floor, and top management from some of these companies giving two of the six keynote addresses at the event.

Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management at AUDI AG spoke to the CES (News - Alert) crowd this morning. And Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford Motor Co., is Friday morning’s keynoter.

As discussed in the November issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine, a TMC (News - Alert) publication, Ford is among the automotive leaders providing voice-enabled and driver’s dash-based interfaces for drivers and passengers so distraction from using communications in the car is minimized.

“We’re trying to use technology to do things in safer ways,” says Jim Buczkowski, fellow and director of electrical and electronic systems research and advanced engineering for Ford, recently told TMCnet.

Ford introduced a feature called SYNC starting with some of its late 2007/2008 model year vehicles. SYNC enables Ford vehicle owners to sync their Bluetooth mobile phones and media players to their cars so they can use voice commands to call people in their phonebooks and select songs by artist, genre, album name or other parameters.

Then, in late 2009/early 2010, Ford upgraded SYNC with the 911 assist feature, which allows motorists to easily reach a public safety access point, or PSAP. The company also now offers a vehicle health report as part of SYNC. Vehicle health report alerts the driver if the vehicle needs an oil change or other service.

Ford has continued to enhance SYNC, which is standard on Lincoln vehicles and available as a $395 option for most Ford-branded vehicles, by adding a widget-type service and a traffic corrections and information feature. The former allows users to access SYNC via voice command to tap into news, sports, downloadable and voice-guided directions. The latter leverages SYNC and user phones to deliver directions.

There are more than 2 million vehicles with SYNC on the road today, the take rate on the SYNC option is well over 70 percent, and cars with SYNC turn twice as fast on the lot as those without SYNC.

Ford research shows that keeping people’s eyes on the road and hands on the wheel is the best way to keep them safe, Buczkowski says.

“We want to create the experiences so you can do things with the short glances” and voice commands, he says.

Beyond just helping motorists and their passengers connect, more safely connect and enjoy music, and get directions and other content, Ford also aims to leverage technology to help save fuel by providing tips and eco-friendly routes, and to prevent accidents. The company is working on an accident avoidance solution called ABICAS that warns motorists if they have inadequate space between them and their vehicle in front of them, will pre-charge the vehicle’s brakes if the system senses they might be needed, does blind spot detection and helps drivers avoid fender benders when they’re backing out.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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