Forecasting the buzz at Consumer Electronics Show is always tricky. But a good bet for what will create certain buzz at next week's CES is whatever Ford Motor (F) and Alphabet's (GOOG) Google are willing to say about their driverless car project.
For the moment, the two companies won't even acknowledge that they're in talks. Nonetheless, the existence of such a project was reliably reported last week based on information from multiple sources and news organizations. Presumably, Ford is hoping to build a driverless car operated with Google software. A match made in virtual reality heaven.
That Ford and Google won't say anything about the collaboration suggests that an agreement isn't final and last-minute snags may remain. But if talks are concluded by early next week, the automaker and the technology company could use the giant and sprawling CES gathering, the world's most-attended annual showcase for technology, as an appropriate venue to disclose their plans.
According to sources, Ford and Google began talking "a few years ago" about driverless technology. Ford was building 50 or so specially-built Fusion sedans for Google to test when the latter put the project on hold after Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page visited Ford's Dearborn, Mich., headquarters.
Bill Ford Jr., the automaker's executive chairman and great grandson of the founder, has been outspoken in his determination to embrace emerging trends in personal transportation such as ride sharing, alternative-fuel vehicles and driverless technology. One theory of how driverless technology may unfold envisions a rapid transition to driverless cars that are leased by users rather than owned.
"Unless we figure out a very different urban transportation model, it's not gonna work," Bill Ford told Wired magazine. "If you think we're gonna shove two cars in every car in garage in Mumbai, you're crazy."