Newspaper article International New York Times

Carmakers Aim to Grab Electronics Show Spotlight

Newspaper article International New York Times

Carmakers Aim to Grab Electronics Show Spotlight

Article excerpt

With advances in technology in cars, nine automakers are planning press events at the International CES in Las Vegas this week.

When Mark Fields attended his first consumer electronics trade show in 2007 as head of Ford Motor's Americas division, the auto industry was hardly noticed among the thousands of tech companies gathered in Las Vegas.

"We couldn't even get space in the convention center to do interviews, and had to do them back at the hotel," Mr. Fields, now Ford's chief executive, said on Monday.

But as this year's International CES kicked off this week, Ford and other automakers were among the headline attractions with a series of announcements on electric vehicles, connected cars and autonomous driving.

It is one way the auto industry has become increasingly entwined with Silicon Valley in recent years.

Ford, for example, was expected to unveil plans on Tuesday to expand its testing of autonomous vehicles and bolster its SYNC in- car communications and entertainment systems.

Despite some news reports, Mr. Fields said Ford would not be announcing a major tie-up with Google -- or any other tech company - - to build driverless cars together.

"In some cases we will do things on our own and other cases we will partner with others," he said. "But we are going to keep those conversations private for competitive reasons."

While tech companies like Google are moving aggressively to develop autonomous vehicles, traditional automakers are moving just as fast to add technology that allows cars to brake and steer themselves independently.

Ford will triple the size of its autonomous vehicle fleet to 30 cars from 10, and step up testing at its proving grounds as well as on public roads in California.

The goal, Mr. Fields said, is to develop fully autonomous cars by the end of the decade. But the increase in research indicates the company needs more time before it can commit to producing driverless cars for sale.

"When we do come out with it, it needs to work and the technology needs to be accessible to everyone and not just luxury-car drivers," he said. …

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