Ford in tech drive

26 June 2012

DETROIT: Ford, the carmaker, is launching a new unit in Silicon Valley as it seeks to leverage the increasing "convergence" observable between the consumer electronics and automotive sectors.

Speaking to AllThingsD, the trade title, Paul Mascarenas, Ford's chief technical officer, argued this trend would require forming alliances with a range of firms beyond the traditional players in the industry.

"What we're seeing now, though, is this convergence between the consumer electronics world and the vehicle itself," he said. "Our plan is to partner with the best in the business and bring that innovation as quickly as we can into our vehicles."

Opening an office in Silicon Valley, home to digital pioneers like Google and Facebook, thus gives Ford a presence in an area renowned for its role in delivering breakthrough innovations.

"We opened the office to be part of what we consider the most innovative community in the world … to work on things like big data, connectivity, future mobility, and then open innovation in the very broadest sense, so how we bring smart technologies into our vehicles," Mascarenas said.

"Every technology that we bring in has to be relevant, has to bring value, and has to help us differentiate our vehicles from our competitors."

Ford has previously worked with Microsoft, the IT group, to design SYNC, an in-car communications system enabling drivers to control devices like mobile phones without taking their hands off the wheel.

SYNC also offers a range of software and apps, ranging from geo-location services to statistical tools linked to insurer State Farm's Drive Safe and Save digital platform, offering rewards for driving well.

This type of programme, Mascarenas said, will help burnish Ford's reputation as "a technology company, rather than just an automaker", which is becoming increasingly important.

"There's a lot of technology in our vehicles, but it's kind of transparent to the customer," he added. "It's delivering more fuel efficient vehicles, its delivering cleaner vehicles in terms of emissions. Manufacturing innovation is incredible in terms of making the vehicles themselves.

"Where it becomes very obvious is when you start looking at this convergence between consumer electronics, and how we integrate that kind of lifestyle into the vehicle in a very seamless and very intuitive way."

Data sourced from AllThingsD; additional content by Warc staff