Ford talks up technologyAt CES 2012, CNET's Brian Cooley talks with Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas about how Ford is implementing technology in its vehicles and about the future of in-car systems.
Speaker 1: There you go. Okay. Here were are folks. All right. Welcome to the CNET Stage here at CES 2012. I'm Brian Cooley and of course we are in a midst of really just kicking off CES 2012. If you're catching us live right now... You know, my particular specialty and passion within this wide world of technology that we cover, many avenues of it but I get into the cars. I love the car tech and joining me now is one of the guys who will absolutely vibe with me on that one. Please welcome Paul Mascarenas, Ford's chief technology officer. Speaker 2: Thanks Brian. Nice to be with you today. Speaker 1: It's good to have you here. Now, when you're here a year ago at the last CES you were freshly (minted?) as the CTO at Ford. Speaker 2: I was. I'm 1 year into the job now. Speaker 1: It's good. Happy Birthday. Speaker 2: Back again at CES. Speaker 1: Good to have you here. Speaker 2: Thanks. Speaker 1: Now, the phrase you coined last year is one that resonated in a lot of people's minds. I've been using it and or butchering it ever since I kinda have stole it from you. You said what about the car? Speaker 2: I said the car is the ultimate mobile device. Speaker 1: And it's so true. Speaker 2: And you like that... It absolutely is. Speaker 1: We're looking at... CES 'cause in the future we call it maybe the Car Electronic Show because we got such a huge presence of auto makers here. Ford of course one of them... Alan Mulally, giving the key note again this year. Catch me up on what you guys have announced. I think you have more announcements this year on the tech front at CES than any of your previous couple of years that you've been here. Where do we start? Speaker 2: Yeah... It's a great show for us. Firstly as you say Alan... Alan Mulally's... as he's flying later in today... Speaker 1: 'Cause we have the Detroit North American International Auto Show going on in... Speaker 2: Yeah so... We're kinda juggling calendars at the moment but... Speaker 1: Right on top of this show which normally doesn't happen. Someone has to do it for us. Speaker 2: Alan will be flying and he'll be participating in a vehicle reveal this afternoon a fusion energy... which is a plug in hybrid. Speaker 1: Okay the plug in hybrid fusion. Speaker 2: Yeah and continuing the reveal that we had at Detroit yesterday and then tomorrow he'll be... Speaker 1: Does that mean you pulled it halfway back at Detroit and the rest of the curtain comes off today? Speaker 2: No, no, no. We're gonna show it to the tech community today. Speaker 1: (But folks?) will really get it. Speaker 2: Yeah that's right. Speaker 1: Right, right. Speaker 2: And then tomorrow he'll be participating in a key note panel... CEO key note panel with (Gary Shapiro?)... but what we're talking about here are really 3 or 4 key areas. The first is we're showing for the first time in North America our Evos concept car... which (we happen to say?) is an absolutely beautiful car... It's a concept in terms of design, showing our future design language for our global products and actually when you look at the Fusion production car and the Evos concept, you'll gonna see a lot of similarities... Speaker 1: A lot of similar looks and it's amazing how much came across from that prototype concept vehicle... Speaker 2: Into the production vehicle. So that gives you an idea of where we're taking out design globally. Speaker 1: But the fascinating about the Evos is that it's got almost a... almost a pulse with the driver as you envision it. Very much interpretive of what the driver is doing, the condition and even some... health status interpretation, right? Speaker 2: Yeah absolutely... It's about the design. The (power train?) plug in hybrid. So again that energy technology exactly the same technology that we'll be showing on the fusion production car I'm talking about this afternoon. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: But in terms of the technology. It's really about this experience that we talked about last year. Applying technology in the vehicle in a relevant way to create an ownership experience for our customers... Speaker 1: Now what do you mean about ownership? 'Cause ownership means you know 1 thing traditionally in cars that means, you know, getting the keys and paying off the note but you're redefining that term right? Speaker 2: Yeah I mean is the rational ownership experience which is about the quality. We consistently deliver high quality vehicles, affordable value for our customers, dependable over their lifetime. That's the very rational side and great fuel economy inside by making this emotional connection. You know... Speaker 1: Okay that's the ownership... Speaker 2: and it's this... what I describe is a seamless experience between the home, the office and the vehicle. So whether you're listening to music, you might be listening to internet radio in the house as you move in to the vehicle, our vision is by connecting the vehicle you can continue to enjoy that same seamless experience whether it's apps that you're using. Apps that you would normally be running on a mobile device, your smart phone, tablet or whatever. Now through app link, you can access those in the vehicle and again... Speaker 1: Yeah (you're early on?) that with Pandora, OpenBeak, one or two others... I know you're announcing a couple additional apps to the show. Speaker 2: Yeah, some new ones this week... MPR, (Proximity?), iHeartRadio... Speaker 1: What is (Proximity?), I don't know that one. Speaker 2: (Proximity?) is really interesting... She contacts place information. So knowing the destination of the vehicle, knowing where you are when you're driving. So if you're passing a shopping mall you might get access to shopping information or you're looking for a restaurant... That's all the things... Speaker 1: Okay, so it's proximity base. Speaker 2: And this is exactly where we're moving now is providing more of this contextual information to the driver. So it's just not bombarding you with information, it's actually providing you with the information that you might need when you need it based on the location of the vehicle. Speaker 1: That's an interesting way to attack distraction I think, which I'm sure you agree is starting to bubble up as a topic at the regulatory layer. Speaker 2: Absolutely, absolutely. Speaker 1: What did you think of the NTSB recommendation that phones go away from cars. Speaker 2: Well we... You know we talked about distractions even when we're here last year and if you remember along with the ultimate mobile device I talked about keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road and sync technology that we're putting in with the voice commands and so on. Being part of this solution to people wanting to use their mobile devices but in a vehicle and us wanting to enable our drivers to continue concentrate on this primary task of driving... Speaker 1: There's no traction for (wide out ban?) isn't it? Speaker 2: NTSB recommendation I... you know, I think our view is... we absolutely support the ban on handheld texting, you know, we're putting the technology in because we think it's bad for people to be using handheld devices while their driving. Speaker 1: Right. Speaker 2: Our view is that you can legislate but that's not gonna solve the problem because people are still gonna wanna use their devices in the vehicle. So we'll continue to develop our in vehicle technologies to allow the safest experience that we can and we believe the safest experience is the seamless connectivity, make it really simple, make it really (insurative?) to connect and then provide an HMI, human machine interface, an interaction with the device, that is as much as possible enable through device. Speaker 1: The key part I think is the 1st part you said with all our folks get the voice part. Speaker 2: Right. Speaker 1: Keep your eyes and hands where they should be and hopefully not subdivide your mind too much but the part about continuity where the car can pick up where left off there's less sort of overhead of me saying okay let me rethink what I'm doing when I'm doing in the car 'cause the car is still somewhat of a digital island. Speaker 2: Exactly. Speaker 1: You do different behaviors in the car with media and communication but if that was not the case if it followed you more from your other places in your life there's less distraction (just say?) where am I, let me get oriented 'cause most of us do that while we're already up and running. Speaker 2: You're actually right and you're hitching on the point that I mentioned. It's something about this familiarity, this insurativeness and as much as we can make it seamless. You know, you can really then continue to focus on driving. Now on the other side I don't wanna get too lost in the driver distraction issue because... we're putting the technology in but on the other side we're also putting in a lot of vehicle technologies, vehicle centric technologies that actually help the driver... For example with the... Focus launched last year with the fusion launched right now, you know, we're launching technologies active cruise control, forward collision warning, mitigation by breaking, lane departure warning... the Fusion vehicle has a lane keeping assist feature... Speaker 1: You've (put that?) down to a low price point. Speaker 2: And you know I talked last time as well about the democratization of technology. So we're not offering these technologies to, you know, low volume (needs?) costumer by making them very affordable, very relevant and available to millions of customers around the world continuing to focus on the pillars what defined of high quality vehicles that are safe through the technologies that we put on board, deliver the best or amongst the best fuel economy, high efficiency gasoline engine eco boost plug in hybrids and so on... and also smart features and technologies and just continuing to focus on those elements. Speaker 1: One side of the technology seems to be answering for the weaknesses on the other whether it's distraction or whether it's inefficiency. We know that the human driver left with their own devices drives typically inefficiently right? Lots of... high... high change driving modes. Lot of breaking, lot of acceleration, bad stuff. Both of those dynamics are bad right? Self or somewhat autonomous driving systems will start to moderate out bad driver behavior soon right? We're not too far from that. Speaker 2: Not too far from that. We're also putting in some... driver assist features. So for example in our... current hybrids we have, the Fusion hybrid for example with the little system where you can grow leaves... Speaker 1: Grow the leaves right. Speaker 2: So you can look at your driving (start?). We have in the Focus... Speaker 1: (??) Get people a video game they wanna win at to get what we want out of them right? Speaker 2: The butterfly feature and so on. So again putting things in... it's a little bit of fun. It's not distracting but it's encouraging this efficient driving (start?). Speaker 1: There is a thought out there that the autonomous car is closer than we think. There's a lot of this bubbling up. No one is ready to put a steak in the ground on when they're gonna deliver an autonomous car. What is... what's in the way of autonomous car, self driving cars, are we gonna get there with one sort of a big jump or is it gonna be a very gradual continuum as we move some kind of self driving in the market. What do you see? Speaker 2: ...It's a great question. My view is... it's somewhere in the future... I haven't got a crystal ball myself so I can't put time lines. Speaker 1: How does 10 years... in general? Crazy maybe? Speaker 2: I don't know... No, I think, crazy for full autonomous... continuing to see a progression of semi autonomous vehicles that are moving towards... When we talk about these technologies I don't think people always relate to what's in our vehicles today. So for example things like active cruise control that are managing speed... Speaker 1: It's a big piece of autonomy. You're just sitting there... Speaker 2: We have the auto park assist feature, you know, which allows you to parallel park a vehicle on the fusion. We have a pull out feature that actually helps the driver to pull out out of tight parking space. Speaker 1: I haven't tried that before. That's interesting. Is that new? Speaker 2: Yeah... And these are autonomous features or semi autonomous features. Speaker 1: I gotta say the self parking in an affordable car as you rolled it out is... it's the best I've driven. I've driven a lot of self parking technologies in cars that are up to 6 figures that can't quite get the nose in... Speaker 2: That's right. Speaker 1: At a $20,000 Ford can do it over and over and over. So I give you kudos on that. So as we look at this what I call perimeter technologies, lane departure... forward collision prevention, active (part?)... all the things that work around the sensors, around the outside of the car... Are we at the point where we can start to just roll out more software that turns those physical devices into what we need for autonomy or is there some additional tangible tech we need to get to autonomous cars? Speaker 2: Now, what we're very focused on is we've got the hardware in the vehicle. So we've got radar sensing, we've got camera sensing, we've got electric power steering that gives you control over the steering... Speaker 1: Right it's a key part. Speaker 2: ...These are what we call the fundamental building blocks. The smart thing, the innovative thing then, and this is how we make it affordable is not to build in more hardware but it's developer software algorithms in the control systems. Speaker 1: Right. Speaker 2: So for example the auto park says no extra hardware in the vehicle... Speaker 1: That's just (gold?) right? Speaker 2: It's the ultra sonic sensors. It's the power steer... electric power steering and... a really smart algorithm. So that's what I think differentiates... you know, a smart innovative company... Speaker 1: This starts to put a car company on the innovation cycle of a CE company right? Speaker 2: A technology company, and that's what we've been emphasizing. Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker 2: Now if you talk about full autonomous vehicles, lots more hardware and a long long way to make it affordable. Speaker 1: Okay. Speaker 2: You're talking about some very very expensive (kit?). Speaker 1: And a lot of that car to car communication thing is really green right now. Speaker 2: Exactly. Yeah in car to car communication I think we can talk about... in a different contest 'cause that's using Wi-Fi, short range Wi-Fi... DSRC, dedicated short range communications. Very affordable, very practical... a lot of big pilots around... you know, not just the country. We got a big program up in Michigan and in (Alba?)... in Germany, Japan. So I think that offers real opportunity in the near term. Speaker 1: Now speaking of your locations, let's talk about your newest lab. You've come to Silicon Valley. Speaker 2: We have. We announced last week that we're opening a lab in Silicon Valley. We didn't talked about the exact location but somewhere in the Palo Alto. Speaker 1: 'cause you know it'll be cramped out. That's why. Speaker 2: Well I'll welcome you there... with an espresso or something together, but now what that's really about is a natural extension of the work that we've been doing for the last 4 or 5 years to really connect not only with our... more mature tech partners, people like Google and Apple, Microsoft a little bit further up the coast but the University of Stanford but I think most importantly for us having a presence in this really innovative community and it's amazing for me. It really is one of the most remarkable innovative communities in the world and it's... everything from, you know, entrepreneurial innovative individuals. Start ups working out of that garages, that kind of tech shops I've approached, all the way through to the tech giants like Apple. So we've been working in the valley area for a long time... Speaker 1: What is it... Speaker 2: But we just felt it was the right time to establish a... a hub for us. Speaker 1: Well especially you have to be closer to those partners and sources and inspirations and places where you can hire the best people or some of those people out of those universities... Speaker 2: Absolutely. Speaker 1: Is this also a part of the faster turn of product and design right? You gotta be faster which means you gotta be closer to where some of the resources are I would assume right? Speaker 2: So again, we... we continue to drive down the... development cycle for the... the vehicle program but you still measure that in years. Speaker 1: Right. Right. Speaker 2: It's 2 or 3 years. What we're trying to measure is this consumer electronic cycle that you're measuring in months you know, 6 to 9 months. Speaker 1: And a lot of folks don't realize how different it still is. Speaker 2: And part of the solution for us is like measuring the... the small gear with the big gear right? You know, small fast turning with the large one. You gotta have an open architect. So you can introduce the latest technology and keep it up to date. An example I'd give would be MyFord Touch. We talked here about MyFord Touch a year ago... We're just launching our first major upgrade on MyFord Touch. Faster, simpler, more functionality but we're doing it purely software based... Speaker 1: Just doing USB drives to owners in many cases right? Speaker 2: Free of charge to our customers, sending the USBs (after our own?). Speaker 1: That's interesting, there was that experience like. Last question I've got for you, what's that experience like for you guys to go through what was really... wasn't intended that way, and then it end up being a little bit of a beta cycle right? I mean software companies, technology companies here are kind of used to find out from the field, need some work here and there... Was that difficult culturally for Ford to deal with to get that kind of feedback from the market. Speaker 2: Very different for us... Really the vision of where we wanna be is a tech company. The ability to launch, industry leading technologies... in a high quality way. Robust way but at the same time be able to very very quickly respond to customer feedback both in terms on the things they really like and then the areas of opportunity for improvement and then get those out quickly to do it efficiently and to do it in a way that is... obviously free but not inconvenient to our customers... Speaker 1: Free and easy. That's key. Speaker 2: And I think the software based updates is absolutely a perfect example of the direction we're moving in as a company. Speaker 1: Completely. Speaker 2: Technology company. Speaker 1: Thanks for being here. Speaker 2: Good to see you. Speaker 1: I appreciate it. Speaker 2: Thanks so much. Speaker 1: Paul Mascarenas CTO of Ford. I am looking forward to Ford's announcement through their CEO Alan Mullaly coming a little bit later here at CES 2012. In a minute, another (??) backpack shot here at the floor of CES. You know what that means, BT, Brian Tong is out there somewhere ready to make your jab drop yet again. Stay tuned. I'm Brian Cooley at CES 2012 with CNET.com, looking forward.