Tuesday, 02 February 2021 09:07

Ford and Google to aim to 'accelerate auto innovation and reinvent the connected vehicle experience'


Well in advance of any Apple car arriving, Ford and Google have announced "a unique strategic partnership to accelerate Ford’s transformation and reinvent the connected vehicle experience."

Ford says it has "also named Google Cloud its preferred cloud provider to leverage Google’s world-class expertise in data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML)."

This is a new, six-year partnership, and in beginning in 2023, the company says "millions of future Ford and Lincoln vehicles at all price points will be powered by Android, with Google apps and services built-in."

Both companies say that "to drive ongoing innovation, Ford and Google are establishing a new collaborative group, Team Upshift. Leveraging the talent and assets of both companies, Team Upshift will push the boundaries of Ford’s transformation, unlock personalised consumer experiences, and drive disruptive, data-driven opportunities. This may include projects ranging from developing new retail experiences when buying a vehicle, creating new ownership offers based on data, and more."

Jim Farley, President and CEO of Ford said: "As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernize our business".

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet said: "From the first moving assembly line to the latest driver-assist technology, Ford has set the pace of innovation for the automotive industry for nearly 120 years. We’re proud to partner to apply the best of Google’s AI, data analytics, compute and cloud platforms to help transform Ford's business and build automotive technologies that keep people safe and connected on the road.”

For Ford’s Australian team, we’re told “this partnership is exciting news for Ford’s large Australian engineering team, which will be responsible for integrating the technology in the vehicles it develops for 180 markets and millions of consumers around the world. This will enable Ford’s Australian team to accelerate its capabilities in tech-auto integration even more rapidly, positioning it to become a world leader in this vital and growing space.”

Con Papadomanolakis, Ford Engineering Director, based in Melbourne said: “This new partnership will give our customers digital experiences in their vehicles that they already have on their phones as the platform will continually update products and services wirelessly over time. As a customer, your usual experience is that your vehicle tech will gradually become less advanced, but with this partnership it’ll be the opposite – your vehicle tech will continuously improve, and with that, so will your driving experience.

“Our 2,500-strong team in Australia engineer world-class global vehicles, and connectivity is an ever-growing part of that development. We’ll keep prioritising the growth and development of our Australian team to support and benefit from these exciting new technologies.

“We expect this partnership to accelerate our Australian team’s abilities so that we can become world leaders in the auto-tech space, and to have that kind of skill in Australia is incredibly valuable not just for Ford but for Australia overall.”

As its preferred cloud provider and starting later this year, Google says it "will help Ford leverage Google Cloud’s AI, ML and data analytics technologies to accelerate the automaker’s digital transformation, modernize operations, and power connected vehicle technologies with Google’s trusted, secure, and reliable cloud."

With Google Cloud, Ford says it plans to:

  • Further improve customer experiences for customers with differentiated technology and personalized services;
  • Accelerate modernisation of product development, manufacturing and supply chain management, including exploration of using vision AI for manufacturing employee training and even more reliable plant equipment performance;
  • Fast track the implementation of data-driven business models resulting in customers receiving real-time notices such as maintenance requests or trade-in alerts.
  • Ford and Google say they have "a shared vision to bring enjoyable, safer and more efficient connected vehicle experiences built to minimize driver distraction and keep customers at the forefront of technology with over-the-air updates."

Beginning in 2023, Ford and Lincoln customers globally will "start to benefit from unique digital experiences built on top of the Android operating system and with Google apps and services built-in, which include world-class map and voice technology:"

  • With Google Assistant, drivers can keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, by getting things done with just their voice.
  • With Google Maps as the vehicles’ primary navigation, drivers can reach their destination faster with information on real-time traffic, automatic rerouting, lane guidance and more.
  • With Google Play, drivers will have access to their favourite apps for listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks and more. These apps are optimised and integrated for in-vehicle use.
  • Android in the car also enables Ford and third-party developers to build apps that provide a constantly improving and ever-more-personalised ownership experience.

Farley added: “We are obsessed with creating must-have, distinctively Ford products and services. This integration will unleash our teams to innovate for Ford and Lincoln customers while seamlessly providing access to Google’s world-class apps and services.”

Ford has also shared information about “Australia’s World-Class Product Development operations”, and states:

  • Ford Australia has a team of more than 2,500 based at 4 (soon to be 5) sites around Victoria
  • The majority of Ford’s Australian workforce works on the engineering and design of some of Ford’s most popular and multi award-winning vehicles, the Ford Ranger and Ford Everest
  • These vehicles are sold in 180 markets across the world, from Australia to South Africa, Brazil, the United States and Saudi Arabia
  • Each year, Ford invests over $500 million in Australian research and development
  • In recent years, Ford Australia has focused on establishing itself as a centre of innovation and customer-centred product development, which has seen the launch of the D-Ford Human Centred Design lab (2021), our Australian Innovation Hub (2020), investment in vehicle testing simulators (2020), and the expansion of our world class Design Centre 

What is a connected vehicle and what impact does it have in real life?

Ford says its customers tell it “they want our vehicles and the tech in them to make their lives better, easier and safer. Connectivity is helping Ford to do this. Most vehicles already have some degree of connectivity, like the ability to connect music and phone calls through Bluetooth and Ford AppLink, and in 2020, Ford announced FordPass Connect Modem as standard in all new models, enabling new digital experiences from the FordPass mobile app such as remote start, vehicle health alert and much more.

“In future, customers may benefit from tech that will reduce incidents on the road, move traffic through lights more efficiently and reduce traffic jams, and, as will be the case with the Ford-Google partnership, offer personalised and seamless integration of their digital ecosystems with their vehicles.”


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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