Ford, Audi turning CES into a car show

Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler will make keynote addresses at the 2011 CES.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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Audi e-tron
Audi is likely to show off one of its e-tron electric car concepts at 2011 CES. Sarah Tew/CNET

No stranger to the Consumer Electronics show, Ford CEO Alan Mulally returns for a keynote at 11 a.m. on Friday, January 7, in Las Vegas, marking his third straight appearance. Less expected was the announcement that Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler will deliver a keynote at CES on Thursday, January 6, also at 11 a.m.

In past appearances, Mulally announced Ford Sync's expansion into a telematics service, the new MyFord Touch interface, and smartphone app integration. Ford has not specified the content of the 2011 keynote, although the company seems committed to introducing new tech features on a yearly basis, hyperspeed for an automaker.

Alan Mulally
Ford CEO Alan Mulally is making his third appearance at CES. Asa Mathat/All Things Digital

This year may see the finalization of smartphone app technology in Ford cars, along with the introduction of new apps beyond the initial three announced. We expect an emphasis on how Sync prevents distracted driving.

Audi boasts that it is the first premium automotive brand to be represented during a keynote address, ignoring perhaps GM's Rick Wagoner taking the stage in 2008 and presenting a Cadillac concept, or Ford's own Lincoln brand.

Stadler's keynote will most likely touch on electric cars, as Audi will show a concept, probably the e-tron at CES' Electric Vehicle Techzone. Audi's cell phone and MP3 player integration has always been good, so Stadler may present some existing tech. Last year, in a static exhibit at CES, Audi showed off its graphically rich navigation system, a result of a partnership with Nvidia. And Audi's new A8 features Google map connectivity, which will be enabled in the U.S. in 2011.

The growing presence of automakers at CES shows the emergence of consumer electronics as an important facet of new cabin technology. Far from a fad, this trend is set to grow.