The Future Integration of Critical Technologies into the Connected Car

A Conversation with Ben Smith, Director of Program Management, Windows Embedded, Microsoft; Gary Clayton, Chief Creative Officer, Nuance Communications; and Sheryl Connelly, Global Trends and Futuring Manager, Ford Motor; hosted by Matthias Hohensee, Bureau Chief Silicon Valley, and Columnist, WirtschaftsWoche

MH: Every car will have access to the Internet in the future, which is happening more quickly than we expected. We have a massive gridlock problem on our hands. Automotive industries, software, etc industries are all working together to make the connected car a reality.

SC: Car has become much more than transportation: It’s a productivity tool on wheels. We expect connectivity everywhere. Ford is finding ways to seamlessly integrate that connectivity into cars. Allow people to stay engaged with information flow in a safe way.

There was a time when car companies thought they would have their own cellphones. That’s not the case: Now they partner with tech innovators. Their cars have open architecture to keep car from becoming obsolete because of tech upgrades.

Will have 9 million cars on road by 2015.

BS: Think about how we interact with the systems. Today, it’s all about these devices, which are gateway to our digital identity. We’ll be successful when we can amplify digital lifestyle, without distracting them. Cars are inherently analog: touch screens in cars are really difficult.

Future interaction methods will be keeping your eyes on road: Move to voice and speech, in-steering wheel controls.

There are map directions that are very difficult that don’t need to be difficult. Like entering map directions.

GC: Expectations for functionality with these devices are exploding in real time. In a car, you don’t want to be out of touch. Think about the kinds of things you want to do in a car: communications, starting the car, can all be done using voice.

In the future, they may be downloaded, that’s still to come.

Do you speak to one car differently than another. Working on a universal language that encompasses speach, universal language.

SC: Originally, car options were more menu-based, but they’ve become much flatter, more intuitive. Surprisingly adaptable in terms of regional accents.

Early iterations of this work were done for NASA, took into account the emotion of the speaker, etc.

BS: Thinking about auto industry is different than gaming: People die every day while using these products. The phone will fit into creating an overall connectivity.

GC: Especially where there’s no connectivity, there will need to be other technology in the car.

SC: We’ve taken a lot of tech from far afield, like tablet industry. Taken the five button module and put it in the steering wheel. There needs to be as small a learning curve as possible because users are traveling at 60 MPH while they’re getting used to it.

Ford at recent conference: I actually worry about what happens when we sell as many cars as possible. What about gridlock? In Beijing, the average commute is 5 hrs/day.

BS: Untapped potential in cars: cars themselves can be an amazing vehicle for crowd-sourcing. How do you map EV charging station? Cars can send information to central map.

SC: My Ford app can tell you rates utilities are charging for electricity and allow you to manage your charging at non-peak hours. Have developed open-source approach to invite developers to create apps.

Adoption rate can be faster in China and Europe. Even when customers cant afford technology, they’re very clever at leveraging technology.