Silicon Valley helps Detroit make advances

October 6, 2009 6:44:35 PM PDT
Some people have started calling Silicon Valley "Green Valley" as it shifts its focus from computers to the environment, but there is also a growing case for calling it "Detroit West."

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When Ford wanted to add a new navigation feature to its cars, it turned to Silicon Valley.

Three companies, deCarta, Telenav and Tellme, joined forces to make it part of Ford's onboard Sync communications system.

"The car is sort of the last disconnected device," Dariusz Paczuski of Tellme Consumer Services said.

In Mountain View, it was Tellme's job to integrate voice commands, which it has already delivered to mobile phones.

"Voice recognition is a very natural user interface for people, very simple and easy to make services more accessible and allows people to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel," Paczuski said.

In Sunnyvale, Telenav's team integrated spoken turn-by-turn directions.

"Silicon Valley's going to be important because ease of use, making the devices, making the interface while you're driving easy to use while hands on the wheel is extremely important," Jose Luis Bedolla of Telenav Business Development said.

And deCarta provided the real-time traffic conditions and alternate route choices.

Ford sees this kind of technology key to its future. It notes that cars equipped with the Sync system outsell other models two to one.

Five automakers, BMW, General Motors, Mercedes, Toyota and Volkswagon, have set up offices in the valley to develop new technology for the road.

Ford's navigation system employs cloud computing, servers accessed by cell phone, to deliver current traffic conditions. The era of DVD map databases is over.

"I might like to say, 'as Silicon Valley goes, so goes Detroit,' but as we make more and more technology of this sort available, it becomes easier and easier to make it part of the driving experience," deCarta Chief Technology Officer Richard Poppen said.

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