Tech giants have helped Ford lift its technical development and validated the car maker’s decision to root itself in Silicon Valley
GOOGLE and Apple potentially entering the automotive field has served as a wake-up call for Ford, according to its new Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering. Dr Ken Washington, who has been in Australia this week meeting with Ford Australia engineers after joining the car maker last August, has told local media that the Google autonomous car and persistent rumours of an Apple car (most recently its tie-up with BMW) do not pose a direct threat the car maker.
“It’s actually pretty exciting to us that there is so much interest from the tech sector in automobiles – in the automotive sector – and we think that’s a case of rising all boats, so we’re pretty excited about that,” said Washington. “It’s also a bit of a wake-up call. We don’t have forever to figure out how to take our game to the next level in terms of driving innovation in our business and giving value out of connected cars and doing something real with autonomous vehicle tech.”
Google has presented its autonomous car and has made no secret of its development of autonomous software for electric vehicles. And while there’s been talk of an Apple car, so far the tech company is yet to show its hand by revealing its intentions; however it has recently extended its trademarks to encompass vehicles in a broad brush that may include motor vehicles. Apple also has tie-ups with car makers – including Ford - through its CarPlay user interface, yet Ford sees these moves as positive steps.
“It’s validated the need for us to be in in Silicon Valley,” said Washington, whose prevoius post before arriving at Ford was in the aerospace industry, based in Silicon Valley.
“It’s a pretty special place… I can tell you from first-hand experience that there are some pretty unique collaborations that happen in Silicon Valley where you’ve got a very high density of technology and venture capital investment firms, and universities and national laboratories doing very cutting edge research and technology development. By being a part of that community you have access to very vibrant community of innovative thinkers and technology innovators, so it was validating to us that technology behemoths like Apple and Google are paying attention to automotive industry.”
Earlier this year, Ford opened a larger facility in Silicon Valley that will support 120 staff. “We’re very serious about being there,” Washington added. “And being not visitors to Silicon Valley, but being members of the technology community there.”