The car companies are here in force at CES. Well, at least Audi and Ford are (Ford, later today, will announce an electric car on stage here, and they gave me a 2012 Ford Explorer pre-production model that has all sorts of interesting technology which I’ll tell you about next week).
What’s going on? Why are car companies introducing cars and showing off their wares in big booths?
Because consumers are deciding on cars on things OTHER than horsepower, handling, and design. Yeah, those are still important, but what really is going to differentiate cars in the future are the features that are inside. Almost all of them technology focused.
Listen into a lunch I had with Audi’s CEO, his head geeks (from left is Mathias Halliger, head of architecture MMI Systems, Rupert Stadler, CEO, and Ricky Hudi, head of electronics development) and several journalists from blogs like Engadget and Autoblog (part I, part II). What did we talk about? Horsepower? The joy of driving? No. We talked about assisted driving technologies. How they were integrating devices into the driving experience. What they were doing with voice recognition and bringing up data from web systems.
Whoa. Web systems. That’s why +we+ should pay attention to the car companies. Some of the tech companies already are. Pandora, for instance, has been making lots of deals with car companies and at CES announced two deals with BMW and Toyota. In Las Vegas we’ve heard stories of Pandora executives taking press out for rides in the desert in the new BMW cars.
But, clearly, the car companies are thinking of something like Siri, which you’ll talk to, and it’ll find things for you. Need coffee at 1 a.m. your car will find it. Need to make reservations at a restaurant you are driving toward? Your car will do it (opportunity for OpenTable). Headed toward a Ritz for vacation? Make a spa reservation. Opportunity for SpaBooker.
Can the tech industry do more in conjunction with the car industry? I think so. We spend so much time in our cars. Especially for those who have families, you are already probably using things like iPads to entertain your kids. That makes more sense than a built-in entertainment system. Why? Because they are connected. I hate the screens in my Toyota minivan because they display so little (usually only DVDs) while our iPads can stream videos, music, let you play games, do research for school papers, and more.
Where is this going? It’s clear the car industry is reaching out to the tech industry and asking us to help them differentiate their products in the future. This feels like a shift in an industry that we’re just at the beginning of (and I think it will culminate in robotic cars like the Google self-driving cars — Audi’s CEO is proud of their involvement with the Stanford Center for Automotive Research (CARS). We did lots of videos at that lab, too, that you should watch if you missed them. (Part I/drive by wire; Part II/autonomous cars; Part III/solar research).
We should pay attention. Big market and great way to get a captive audience. I know I’m already captive to Pandora. Aren’t you?