Technology shows the way

  • 02-Feb-2009 12:54 EST
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It is no secret that the technology once thought to be “futuristic” and the stuff of fantasy is now here and available. A great example of this was the Consumer Electronics Show that was held in Las Vegas last month.

While I was not able to personally attend the event, I like millions of other people read and viewed daily reports about the latest and greatest products and gizmos.

The ingenuity was amazing. I heard about a large, flat-screen television that was only 11/3-in thick; a “wristwatch” TV that offered amazing high-definition clarity on its screen; and a handheld unit that uses wind or solar power to recharge cell phones or other small, electronic devices.

But, as fascinating as I found those items to be—and as a consumer, I found them to be very intriguing—I was more interested in the products made for the mobility industry, and more specifically automobiles.

The creativity did not disappoint. I read a report describing the world’s first Internet car radio that offers thousands of online stations. Another report talked about products specifically geared for older vehicles. Included were multifunctional units that combine CD, DVD, MP3, and GPS capabilities in one unit that links to digital screens to be placed throughout the vehicle. Such technologies essentially upgrade a vehicle—consumers get more electronic bang for their bucks.

As I learned more about the different technologies throughout the week, I thought more about the show and what it means to the automotive industry. It became less of an event as I thought about it, and more of a symbol of where the automotive industry is and where it is going.

Without a doubt, these are challenging times; and the challenges faced are different for each OEM and supplier. But even with those challenges, the ideas, innovation, and creativity march on. Cool new gadgets are being developed. Ideas are being hatched from the technology that exists now but did not a year ago. Ingenuity still drives our nation, and the automotive industry still leads the way.

Sure, you can argue the usefulness of some of the products on display in Las Vegas last month, and you even can argue whether or not many of them will ever see the production light of day. But, I submit to you that there is something that cannot be argued. And that is that even in the darkest times—and perhaps especially in the darkest times—the
light that leads us out is th­e same one that started it all more than a century ago, and that is good, old-fashioned ­inventiveness.

That inventiveness was on display last month at the Consumer Electronics Show and continues to be on display in R&D facilities and technical centers around the world. As all of us work to make the industry stronger and overcome the challenges we face, it is reassuring to know that new and creative ideas are never in short supply.

I wonder how many channels that new wristwatch TV gets.

As always, I welcome your feedback and constructive input to this topic and any other issues on your mind. Please feel free to e-mail me at focus@sae.org.

David L. Schutt, SAE Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

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