Reputation reversal: U.S. automakers as innovation paradigms?

What a long strange trip it's been for U.S. automakers Ford and GM. After a recent multi-year stretch in which their names were synonymous with "cars we don't want to buy," these auto manufacturers are now turning heads at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and restoring their reputations by getting the word out about exciting new technology offerings. This week, Rick Wagoner of GM became the first-ever automaker executive to give a keynote address at the CES event, while Microsoft's Bill Gates gushed over the new Ford Sync technology. As the Wall Street Journal reports, GM is stirring up the innovation pot with plans to develop a car that practically drives itself:

Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner will outline GM's ambitions in a keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las

Vegas as part of a larger effort to change buyers' perceptions of the

auto giant. In Mr. Wagoner's vision of the not-too-distant future,

vehicles crammed with cameras, sensors, radar and navigation technology

will be able to brake and accelerate on their own, avoid accidents and

spot congestion. And he's determined to have GM be seen as leading the


"We see vehicles going from being largely mechanical to becoming more

and more electronic," Larry Burns, chief technologist at GM and a

confidant of Mr. Wagoner's, said in an interview last week. "We can

think of no auto maker that is better positioned to fully leverage this

trend than us."

While it may be a bit premature to look for any accretive effects to the stock price of either Ford or GM, it's interesting to see how the mainstream media is already picking up on the story idea of the "tech-savvy U.S. automaker" making a return to former glory.

[image: GM's DARPA entry]

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less