In a speech that emphasized innovation and independence, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally told attendees
at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) today
that Ford is ratcheting up its efforts in in-vehicle connectivity.
"The best bet is to develop products that are versatile and
loaded with features that make them easy to personalize," Mulally told the
crowd at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Ford's efforts going forward include a wide variety of
technologies that enhance eyes-on-the-road driving while providing connectivity
to phone calls, text messages and navigation services.
During the presentation, Ford engineers described a new
technology called MyFord Touch, which ties the technologies together with
strong design and graphics. The company said its strategy will include
integrated GUIs (graphical user interfaces), TUIs (touch user interfaces), and
VUIs (voice user interfaces) in the form of LCD screens, steering wheel
controls, instrument clusters and media hubs that make communications simpler
and safer. They added that the MyFord Touch technology will be available in
showrooms later this year. Next week, the company will also roll out a similar
technology called MyLincoln Touch.
The giant automaker also announced that it has forged a
partnership with Mapquest.com to provide voice navigation services to drivers
through the company's well-known Sync platform.
Ford engineers demonstrated voice-based communications by
having the dashboard software read aloud from a text message sent to the
speaker while on stage. They also credited engineers from Nuance for helping with its voice control
effort. "The Nuance team was invaluable in improving voice recognition and
simplifying command sequences, using fewer words to get what you want," said
Jim Buczkowski, director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering
for Ford. "With their help, we've been able to flatten the required grammar
sequences and make Ford voice control more conversational."
Engineers said the new voice control systems will enable
improved voice command control of radios, CD players, MP3 players, climate
control systems, navigation, phones and other features.
Mulally's introduction drew cheers from the audience when a
Consumer Electronics Association executive credited him with leading Ford
through the tough economic times of the past year. Mulally's decision to borrow
$23 billion, instead of looking to the federal government, "has allowed Ford to
steer through the current economic crisis without public assistance," noted Gary
Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. "As a
result, Ford is owned by shareholders, not by the federal government."