Ford Shows Off Instrument Panel of Future

There will come a day when an avatar a virtual representation of a human being will adorn your vehicle's instrument panel and act as an electronic personal assistant, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally predicts. Mulally, during a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, demonstrates what the technology could look like in a video clip featuring an Avatar named Eva, who on the IP

There will come a day when an avatar — a virtual representation of a human being — will adorn your vehicle's instrument panel and act as an electronic personal assistant, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally predicts.

Mulally, during a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, demonstrates what the technology could look like in a video clip featuring an Avatar named Eva, who “lives” on the IP of a futuristic Lincoln.

Eva is able to understand conversational speech and acts as the liaison to the vehicle's connectivity and infotainment features.

While several auto makers are working on perfecting conversational speech for their in-vehicle multimedia systems, the technology is still a ways off, says Doug VanDagens, director of Ford's Connected Services Organization.

“There are a number of things that go into natural voice, and nobody now has very high accuracy,” he tells Ward's. “It will probably become available in a couple years or maybe even 18 months.”

The IP on which Eva is displayed also is fully configurable, allowing drivers to reposition controls such as the fuel gauge and speedometer.

Although Ford says such technology is several years away, it provides a glimpse of the capabilities of Sync, the auto maker's in-vehicle trademark multi-media system. It also demonstrates the status of Ford's human-machine interface development.

Such technology is found on the new '10 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids. Both vehicles feature a unique instrument cluster that provides real-time information and “coaches” drivers on how to adjust their behavior for maximum fuel efficiency.

Meanwhile, Mulally reveals details of the latest Sync technology, the new “Traffic, Directions and Information” feature.

It integrates voice-recognition software, global-positioning technology and a customer's Bluetooth-capable phone to provide hands-free access to personalized traffic reports, turn-by-turn driving directions and up-to-date information including business listings, news, sports and weather.

Ford hints at the future of in-car connectivity via totally configurable cockpit concept featuring intuitive, conversational electronic personal assistant (below).

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