Wozniak Ford Panel

Steve Wozniak always wanted to be an engineer. “Engineers build things in the world that change people’s lives,” he told the Further With Ford conference.

Woz sat on a panel that discussed the advancements in technology that are steering us towards self-driving cars. It was a wild, wandering discussion. All you need to do is turn Woz on by asking him a question, and then much later try to find the off switch to get him to stop. He is a friendly, honest, and engaging man who has thoughts on anything and is more than willing to share them.

If self-driving cars are to become the norm, Woz hopes it becomes a seamless experience. “Technology is better when it disappears. When it can understand and predcit what the user wants,” he said.

“You can’t just stick a bunch of electronics in the car. They get in the way. Think about how we act in natural life, and bring that voice and gesture understanding to the design. Technology is supposed to save us from thing. Get the technology out of the way, and present the user with a solution.”

There was a very detailed demonstration in the panel from Ford about their progress in creating intelligent vehicles. The EVOS is a car that can communicate with your alarm to monitor traffic to get you up or let you sleep in, to tagging roads and fun drives to share with your friends, to choosing the music to suit your heartrate as you drive, Ford is pushing the envelope.

When you see the demonstration, the first question you ask is “Why?” Why do we need cars that are this “smart”? It’s easy. Ford is showing the extreme in car communication to get us more comfortable with where we will end up – self driving cars we can talk to. Yes, the era of KITT is just around the corner.

“Voice has gone further in my life than I ever thought it would,” said Woz. “I’m amazed at the part of voice that understands words in volume. It autocorrects sounds and knows words, but it doesn’t always get the human meaning.”

Woz is eager for self-driving vehicles. He says safety will be the linchpin to make it work. “I just want to play Words With Friends, while my car drives me to work,” he laughed. “Cars will be like our best friends, they will know us so well.”

Buzz and WozWhile we await the acceptance of self-driving cars, the other big trend will be battery powered vehicles, but that still has a cost attached. “You can’t have technology before its time,” says Woz. “Unless the cost fits the marketplace, it won’t succeed. Electric vehicles are still waiting for battery costs to come down before they can catch on.”

After the session, Woz was mobbed with people wanting to meet him, and get his business card. Yes, that’s actually his phone number and email address. He has no problem passing it out and being totally open and honest.

Part of the conversation was about privacy, and how much information we are sharing with not only business, and social networks, but eventually our cars. Woz has a simple philosophy he lives by:

“Be entirely open and it will keep me from doing bad things.”

He has a point.

steve wozniak business card

Here is a video of the Disrupting The Drive panel:

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