Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Automakers Race to Embrace the Wired Car

Source: Randy Stern | Wikipedia

In the tug of war between packing more technology into cars and making sure what we’re driving is not “too wired,” it is more clear than ever that the future of the auto industry is tied to the future of the tech industry.

That brings both tremendous opportunities and potential concerns.

For years automakers have been working closely with Microsoft , SAP and countless other tech firms as the amount of software and tech features in cars has steadily increased.

While systems like MyFord Touch have become very public examples of technology becoming a big and very visible part of the driving experience, there are numerous “hidden” tech features that are now built into cars.

Many of those tech features have made cars safer by allowing the car to protect drivers and passengers in potentially dangerous situations. A good example is the development of collision avoidance systems.

From Detroit to Germany to Asia automakers are now moving faster than ever to tap the next evolution of technology.

The latest example is Ford setting up a Silicon Valley Lab in Palo Alto, California so it can have a dedicated team based in an area where new tech start-ups, ideas and possibilities are constantly percolating. In other words, Ford wants to be closer to the heartbeat of the tech industry.

Does having a dedicated “lab” in Silicon Valley mean Ford will find out and incorporate the next big thing in technology sooner than its competitors? No, but it does mean the company is looking more than ever to see how technology can be incorporated into Ford cars and trucks.

You can look at this as Ford trying to beat its competitors to market with the next big thing. I think it’s more a case of Ford embracing the fact future cars will pack more, not less, technology and having a base in Silicon Valley may give Ford a better understanding of how to use that technology.

The challenge remains the same for automakers. They work in a world where taking a car from the drawing board to the showroom takes at least two and half years. That’s an eternity in the tech world. The auto industry is still moving slower than the tech industry, but little by little it’s working hard to get up to the same speed.


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