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­.s. Innovation Boosted By Silicon Valley-Detroit Team-up


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An early on-dash computer.

The automobile and computer industries are converging, as consumers increasingly demand more technology in cars.

Credit: Terry Gold

Rising consumer demand for more technology in cars has sparked a convergence between the auto and computer industries, with analysts saying the trend is helping to inaugurate a period of prosperity for automakers.

Among the innovations being ushered in are Web-linked vehicles that give drivers seamless access to their business and social networks, and aiding in this development is the establishment of research labs in Silicon Valley by major automakers.

"We are here to find the new technologies that are going to make cars better and safer," says General Motors' Frankie James.

The competition for engineering talent between automakers and computer and software firms also is intensifying, especially as people with such skills show increasing interest in the automotive sector.

Some say the auto industry's robust growth and technological change is directly related to the concurrent boom in smartphone and mobile technology. "The software platforms in our personal computers and smartphones are moving to the car," says IHS analyst Egil Juliussen. "Both sides need help with that."

Web-connected autos will boost customers for app makers and computer firms, while programmers will be required to structure and extract meaning from the cache of analytic data streaming from vehicles.

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