“We don’t have all the answers, because we don’t even know all the questions”
Venkatesh Prasad, group and senior technical leader, Vehicle Design and Infotronics, Ford Research and Innovation
“At Ford, we view ourselves as both a mobility and an auto company, as we drive innovation in every part of our business,” said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company president and CEO. “This new research center shows Fords commitment to be part of the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem “ anticipating customers wants and needs, especially on connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles. We are working to make these new technologies accessible to everyone, not just luxury customers.”
Fields talked about partnering with groups in Silicon Valley at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and today at the Ford Research Lab in Palo Alto, CA, “when we come out with a vehicle we want it to live up to our heritage, which means it will be affordable and accessible.” This years the CES show consumed so much of the show it could easily have been the first auto show of 2015.
The groups Ford has partnered with reads like a veritable Who’s Who of Darpa Challenges; Stanford, Carnegie Mellon. But where is Google? Why isn’t Google on the page? Fields talked about an autonomous vehicle coming out in 5 years and why it wouldn’t be Ford.
Fields said Ford is looking to employ 125 people at their Palo Alto Research and Innovation Center. Ford has two other technology centers, one in Dearborn, Michigan, which focuses on advanced electronics, human-machine interface (HMI), materials science, big data and analytics; and Aachen, Germany, which focuses on next-generation powertrain research, driver-assist technologies and active safety systems.
Automobiles have come along way in technology since former Ford CEO, Alan Mulally, was the keynote speaker at the 2010 CES convention talking about the 2010 Ford Taurus as the official car of the 2010 International CES, offering 10 class-exclusive technologies not available from any other manufacturer, including Multi-contour seats with Active Motion, voice-activated navigation, SYNC and MyKey. At the event today we were shown multi-contour seats that could inflate like an airbag with a voice command.
The voice command is another technology that Ford is working on. Currently people are able to give limited commands and they have to be in a certain order. Ford, and other companies, are working on creating a conversation with the car, so that the car has a more natural language voice recognition that follows a line of conversation.
“Growing the Palo Alto team will strengthen our global research prowess and drive innovation needed to meet the needs of our customers in the future,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “Working together with the Silicon Valley research community will spark the new ideas, products and services that will help Ford once again change the way the world moves.”