Arlington, Va. - With Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally appointed the opening keynote speaker for the upcoming International CES in January, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) called the car the "fourth screen" in consumer electronics, after the TV, PC and portable screens.
In a Webcast today, the CEA confirmed Mulally will give the opening keynote address at CES, noting that Ford is "acting and thinking like a consumer electronics company," according to CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro.
Ford said it will continue to partner with companies like Microsoft and Apple to bring technology into the car in as little as six, 12 or 24 months, from inception, where in the past technologies took several years to actually being car-ready.
Sales of in-vehicle technology are expected to top $9.3 billion in 2009, said Shapiro.
Mulally's appearance marks the second consecutive year he has given a keynote address at CES, and follows a keynote by then-General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner in 2008.
CEA noted, "With three screens that orbit the consumer electronics environment - TVs, PC and mobile devices, we're starting to see a fourth screen in vehicles start to frame the consumer electronics experience for the consumer," according to Steve Koenig, CEA's industry analysis senior director, addressing today's Webcast.
Now that half of households own MP3 players, consumers want to use their devices in the car in a safe way, he added.
Ford executives, including Jim Buczkowski, electric/electrical systems engineering director, claimed that Ford's Sync voice-recognition technology helps to connect devices to the car while allowing hands-free operation and eyes on the road. Buczkowski said Ford supports current legislation that would eliminate texting on a handheld while driving, and Shapiro said about half the states are in the process of banning texting while driving.
Buczkowski said 70 percent of Ford vehicles are now sold with Sync voice-controlled radios, and cars with Sync continue to sell off the lot twice as fast as those Ford cars without Sync.
When asked if Ford is working to drive down the price of in-dash navigation, Buczkowski said, "We are very aware of where we need to be to compete with devices like PNDs [portable GPS devices] and what we have to do go get there."
Ford connected services director Doug VanDagens noted that Ford's latest generation of Sync radios provide voice-guided traffic directions for free for three years.