LAS VEGAS--Today's automakers are embracing the Internet cloud by building connected cars, and Ford is no exeception.
To find out more about Ford's strategy, I sat down with the company CEO Alan Mulally and Chief Technology Officer Paul Mascarenas at Ford's massive booth at the Consumer Electronics Show here, ahead of Mulally's keynote address. (Scroll down to listen to the podcast.)
When I asked Mulally why a car company would be at CES, he said, "We're clearly a technology company and we're providing very important technical solutions through the mobile application devices we serve the customers with."
Ford used CES to unveil its 2013 Ford Fusion that Mulally described as a "family of vehicles where we have electrified the entire platform." He said options will include gasoline-powered, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric.
"You can imagine where that leads you to on smartphones on sync and MyFord, and having an ecosystem of applications to manage your electric vehicle," including the right time to charge your vehicle, "the state of your vehicle, what's the right route to take to minimize your energy use. So really the car is becoming the all-time mobile application."
Collaboration and partnership
I asked Mulally about Ford's recent announcement that it's to take advantage of the companies and talent in the area. "It's all about collaboration and partnership and open architecture," he said. "We've watched many people try to develop all their own capability and embed it into the vehicle What we have found is that the most import thing we can do is manage the interface so we can help people be less distracted but more connected."
One of Ford's major design goals is to encourage drivers to "keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel." Mascarenas said some new Ford vehicles have "10,000 voice commands" to control not just the phone and the music system, but other systems as well, including the environment of the cabin. "With cloud connectivity we can preset parameters so we can precondition the temperature you want your vehicle. The best way to keep hands on road and eyes on wheel is voice activation," said Mascarenas.
Podcast interview with Mulally and Mascarenas