At the 2009 Consumer Electronics' Show, Ford made its second announcement of improvements to its popular SYNC platform for in-vehicle connectivity. Ford SYNC-equipped vehicles are moving off dealers' lots twice as fast as vehicles without it, making the process of getting new technology out of the lab and into production more important than ever.
What's the driving force behind SYNC?
We are just responding to the fact that customer expectations, through other commodities and other types of electronic products, is very high. In the car, we should be able to try to deliver the same thing. For us, it's how do we build electronic systems and features in the vehicle that we can deliver faster?
With SYNC, Ford is delivering timely consumer electronics to customers on a carmaker's schedule. How is this possible?
There are two aspects to it. One is we have an advanced activity team within the organization that really focuses on going through and filtering technologies. They do that jointly with our advanced marketing team because not only are we looking for technologies, we want to make sure those technologies are things customers really want. So using the market research in our marketing organization, we can filter through technologies and determine that these are the things we want to move forward on.
The other, more technical aspect is to be able to deliver faster. It's a focus and strategy around building platforms in the vehicle. In the past, it might have been optimized around a design that's very purpose-specific. When you look at SYNC and the way we want to do other things in the future, we build a platform that can be upgraded using software — software you can upgrade a lot faster, change a lot faster, than you can change hardware. So, building a flexible platform that you can run applications on, and then you can change those applications over time and improve them or add new ones is a way to try to match the traditional vehicle cycle with the fast consumer electronics' cycle.
Is the process you used to get a new consumer electronics' product to market applicable to other areas in the vehicle?
Yes, we think that it is. This same type of strategy is applicable as our advanced group is filtering through technologies and bringing them forward. They are looking at how to leverage that same solution, same methodology and strategy on other things, besides just the multimedia and telematics type space.
Jim Buczkowski is the director of Global Electrical/Electronic Systems Engineering at Ford Motor Co.