the company held a press conference at the Dearborn Hotel in
Dearborn, Michigan to announce some major news -- Ford will be
appearing again at CES and Ford CEO Alan Mulally will be delivering
the keynote address at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 7.
DailyTech attended the Ford press conference and got a chance
to listen to Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) President and CEO
Gary Shapiro break the news and give his thoughts on Ford.
Shapiro stated, "Ford understands the importance of technology
as a driver of innovative vehicles... Ford's vision of wireless tech
has set the bar [high] for the automotive industry and forever
changed how consumers interact with their cars."
CEA officials then held a brief panel to discuss Ford's hottest
SYNC and other innovations from the company. Built on top
of a Microsoft OS and with voice recognition technology from Nuance
(see AnandTech's special
on this company's voice recognition products), Ford believes that the
SYNC's latest features like Traffic, Directions and Information
Services put its vehicles a step ahead of the competition.
company also emphasizes that SYNC makes common in-car activities like
phone calls or listening to music safer and less distracting.
Ford's Jim Buczkowski, director of Electronics & Electrical
Systems Engineering emphasized this point stating, "At Ford,
driver distraction is a very important issue, voice technology helps
keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Technologies
like Ford SYNC are key to managing distractions."
Shapiro and the Ford directors agreed that SYNC would allowing a
hands-free texting ban without the loss of functionality. As
far as a texting ban, Shapiro states, "Banning texting while
driving is a no-brainer."
According to Buczkowski and
Doug VanDagens, director of Connected Services at Ford, one SYNC
feature that's being worked out is outgoing voice-driven text
messaging. The big holdup is fine-tuning the editing of text
messages by voice, they say, but they expect the feature to be
delivered sometime in the near future (perhaps a CES announcement?).
We also asked them when the vehicles might be getting automatic
updates via cell phones or other wireless links. Ford responded
that they believe that their user downloadable updates, such as their
"SYNC My Ride" program, are good enough and that the user
can install updates manually via USB.
As to security,
DailyTech pointed out that viruses or malware on the iPod or
other devices could in theory attack SYNC (causing volume disruption,
bad directions, errant speech, etc.), and asked what protections were
being put in place to stop this. Ford did not really comment on
a protections within SYNC, but said that vehicle specific functions
were firewalled to protect them from the vulnerable consumer
interface. So while malware could, in theory, wreak havoc with
SYNC, your base vehicle would be safe.
Another feature Ford
touted was their radar and sonar blind spot detection, parking lot
Cross Traffic Alert, and warnings to prevent rear end collisions.
All of these features help distracted drivers regain their
concentration. DailyTech asked Ford if they would be
overriding driver commands at some point, if drivers executed
dangerous moves, such as going into a lane with a car in it, despite
Buczkowski and VanDagens said that Ford
engineers are considering this, but the issue is to implement it
properly. For now, they say the driver is ultimately
responsible for their own safety, though the car does take some steps
when fast approaching an obstacle, such as precharging the brakes.