Is There a Google Under Ford's Hood?

If you want to see Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) working together in a confined space, you may as well buy a Ford (NYSE: F  ) .

The thriving automaker made an unlikely appearance during yesterday's Google I/O Conference. It's not a surprise because Ford is an automaker. Geeks and gear heads may not party in the same circles, but Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been a staple at the Consumer Electronics Show and other tech-driven events. The convergence of automobiles and connectivity has narrowed the gap between Detroit and Silicon Valley.

No, Ford partnering with Google is a head-scratching presenter because it seemed as if the car and light truck giant had already hitched a ride with Microsoft as its tech partner. It's Mr. Softy, after all, that's been powering Ford's voice-activated Sync platform for years. Does Mulally really need Microsoft and Google technology rubbing elbows on the dashboard?

Apparently so.

Google Prediction API -- a Google Labs release that helps predict behavior based on user actions in the past -- is being tested by Ford on plug-in hybrids. After learning a driver's patterns, it can determine whether a weekday morning start-up is going to be a long workday commute or if a Sunday afternoon run is just a few blocks to church. Drivers will confirm the assumption, and the car will allocate its electric- and gas-powered options more effectively.

Drivers will naturally need to check their tinfoil hats in the trunk. Consumers are weary these days of being too identifiable. We're shredding cookies in cyberspace faster than Sesame Street's Cookie Monster on morning TV. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is coming under fire for how it tracks the whereabouts of iPhone users. Ford will have to assure folks shelling out five figures for a new ride that Big Brother isn't some phantom accessory. The fuel efficiency message will have to be pitched loud and clear.

Will this be bigger than a one-off prediction tool for the next generation of hybrids? Who knows? Microsoft and Ford do have an open marriage.

There was nothing stopping the world's largest software company from teaming up with Toyota Motors (NYSE: TM  ) this year to raise the bar on telematics. The Entune multimedia system gives Toyota drivers access to Microsoft's Bing for navigation as well as the ability to buy theater tickets through MovieTickets.com's virtual box office or make dining reservations through OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN  ) . Entune lives on Microsoft's Azure cloud.

No one's going to play favorites. Dashboard toys sell cars these days, and every automaker is going to try to gain any technological advantage that's available. Geeks and gear heads come together because they all ultimately know where they're heading.

Can a car grow too smart for its own good? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a Ford car owner and shareholder. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. Google and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Google and OpenTable are Motley Fool Rule Breakers selections. Apple and Ford Motor are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on Apple. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Ford Motor, Google, and Microsoft. Alpha Newsletter Account, LLC owns shares of Microsoft.

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  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2011, at 4:29 PM, olorinn3 wrote:

    Can a car grow to smart for its own good? I say NO! In this day and age most drivers are multi-tasking while driving which is causing inattention to all that is around them. Talking on their cell phones, texting or reading papers. I know all of us have seen this in one fashion or form or is guilty of doing some of the same. Drunk driving is becoming a nightmare. If we are not going to police ourselves why not have our cars do it for us. When we enter our cars, why not have the car do a breathalyzer before we can turn the key. Over the limit, car will not start.

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