Detroit’s three big automakers are well aware of the importance of innovation in the modern auto industry. Years of trailing the pack contributed to the collapse of the Big Three, but signs point to a new way of thinking for Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM). In the case of the former, Ford is in the news for the second straight week. Both times, the topic was industry innovations.
As Wired reported on Friday, a Ford engineer has take an Xbox controller and designed a system that would tell drivers when to shift their car. The knob would start to vibrate if the driver wasn’t aware of the change in RPM, according to the report. It can be installed on a variety of cars, from the Focus to the premium Mustang models.
Of course, manual transmission is the only way to go for serious car enthusiasts. For those who have trouble learning how to shift gears, this system would take out the guesswork. Shifting properly is as useful for getting superior fuel economy as it is for driving in the best possible conditions.
Zach Nelson, the engineer at Ford who came up with the system, told Wired he’s made the rounds with his gadget on several Ford cars, and even has set up a system using a tablet to show drivers what gear they’re in and when it is advisable to change. It won’t require the driver to look away from the road at any point.
Last week, Ford was in the news for the security system it is patenting with the help of InterMotive Inc. The AP reported the automaker had been supplying the system for police cars, and could detect the approach of someone from behind the vehicle. The car would then automatically begin a series of safety precautions, including closing the windows and locking the doors.
Ford clearly sees the future of the auto industry paved with technology. The company’s technology page addresses advancements in fuel economy and connectivity with nearly equal space on its website. Recent efforts to give the company a greener reputation also highlight the changes in the Detroit Three’s approach.
So far, the strategy is working for Ford. Before releasing its earnings report this week, the Dearborn-based automaker showed off the success of its hybrid vehicles. The impressive earnings report only brought better news, sending the stock near post-recession highs. Ford has apparently turned the corner.
To keep that momentum going, the automaker is right to focus on technology. From powering a car with voice controls to shifting without learning how to master this art, Ford is acknowledging people want to work less to drive a car. It’s a tech-centric world, and Ford is proving it can thrive in it.
Here’s how shares of Ford and GM have traded over the past 5 trading sessions: