What Happened to the Smart Cars? Ford’s Efforts to Impress NYT Columnist Evidently Fall Short

2/28/11Follow @xconomy

Ford wants to build “smart” cars that can communicate with each other and the road to boost safety, an aim we can all presumably get behind. But when it comes to cars facilitating human to human communication…well, that’s another story.

In her Sunday column, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said she feared that Ford’s cornucopia of “in-car connectivity” technologies—including an avatar that can read e-mails out loud, recommend music, and update schedules—would inevitably distract drivers and cause accidents.

Ford had invited Dowd to their headquarters to test the technology. But the company’s efforts to woo the famously snippy columnist seemed to fall short.

“Remember when your car used to be a haven of peace from the world?” Dowd wrote. “Now it’s just a bigger, noisier and much more dangerously distracting smartphone.”

Not quite the PR that Ford wanted, I’m sure. But Dowd’s column was notable for what it didn’t say.

The 800 word piece didn’t touch on Ford’s sizable investment into “intelligent” vehicles: cars and trucks that can wirelessly transmit data between each other, such as location, speed, proximity, and brake status.

Ford’s interest in smart cars extends far beyond mere research. Guided a company-wide task force of executives, scientists and engineers, the company hopes to debut the cars in five years.

“We kind of like to get it out as soon as we can,” project leader Mike Shulman … Next Page »

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  • Ian

    To me, the whole direction of this type of technology makes me think of Joseph Tainter’s analysis of the fall of complex societies throughout history coming as the result of diminishing marginal returns on complexity.