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Car, tech firms must work together to provide Internet, 'apps' : Ford executive

The Ford logo is seen on a vehicle at Ford car plant in Craiova, 230km (143 miles) west of Bucharest, October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Bogdan Crist
The Ford logo is seen on a vehicle at Ford car plant in Craiova, 230km (143 miles) west of Bucharest, October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Bogdan Crist

By Ben Klayman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Automakers and technology companies need to cooperate more closely to ensure the rapid and smooth development of cars that are fully connected to the Internet, a top Ford Motor Co executive said on Tuesday.

Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley told reporters at the Los Angeles Auto Show that the automotive and technology sectors are "at a tipping point" where they need to work together better than they have to speed the roll-out of the services in cars that allow consumers to drive safely and interact with their favorite apps or other technologies.

"The car companies have to change and the tech companies have to change," he said to industry officials at the auto show. "For the car companies, it's pretty clear that the mobile digital economy is not in our hands."

Farley said automakers must acknowledge that the real value for consumers comes from outside the auto industry and they must create an open architecture that allows outside providers. Meanwhile, tech companies need to stop imposing their user interfaces on drivers in a way that makes driving unsafe.

For example, Google Inc's Tarun Bhatnagar, director of Google Maps for Business, speaking after Farley, described using the navigation app on his smartphone that sat in his lap as he drove a rental car in Los Angeles.

"I can't help but wonder why is it that beautiful screen in the instrument cluster of my rental car can't provide me with a connected and safer driving experience? That needs to change," he said.

Farley said he had no new deals with technology firms to announce, but he expected significant agreements over the next few years as the two sides work more closely together.

He said the navigation system is a natural place to start. "If the navigation system works so well on the phone, who's going to pay for it in the car?" Farley said. "But it's unsafe using them in a car and that's the reality."

Farley said automakers will have to innovate around how data is used in the car and that Ford is betting first on "brought in," which refers to people bringing their mobile devices into the vehicle.

The other options are building the services into the car or beaming them in.

Calling the car "the ultimate mobile device," Farley said certain apps like navigation are endemic to the car experience and automakers will need to incorporate them really well.

Ford's Sync technology has already had a major impact on consumers' purchasing decisions and the company has sold 10 million Sync-equipped vehicles, he said. Ninety-four percent of Ford's 2014 model-year vehicles will be sold with the Sync technology.

(Editing by Dan Grebler)

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