Ford Motor Company will open a research lab in Silicon Valley in early 2012, hoping to keep pace with consumer technology and mobile innovations. Ford joins General Motors, BMW, and the Renault-Nissan Alliance as the latest company to establish a presence in Silicon Valley. Verizon and AT&T recently announced similar moves to the west coast.
Working to support the work of Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, the new lab will try to recruit local talent, as well as establish partnerships with new tech startup firms and researchers. The move also puts Ford in closer proximity to the other members of its "innovation network" - its Advanced Design Studio in Irvine, California, and its connectivity platform partner Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.
The Palo Alto-based lab will focus on researching new solutions for personal mobility, creating open-source hardware and software developer kits, and developing ways to utilize a vehicle's multitude of sensors for mobile apps.
According to Paul Mascarenas, Chief Technical Officer and Vice President of Ford's Research and Innovation branch, the Dearborn-based research team is already at work on several key areas that will be supported by the new lab. "With increasing pressures from urbanization and the need to reduce energy use, we're going to see energy storage, wireless connectivity, sensing systems, and even autonomous vehicles."
This is the latest in a string of announcements from the automaker - including the release of its MyFord Mobile app and its partnership with Microsoft to develop a touch-screen dashboard and Sync voice-activated entertainment system - that demonstrate Ford’s focus on delivering new mobile technology to its customers. "Ford integrates technologies, software and electronics at the same pace as the most innovative companies in the world - our platform just happens to be the car," Mascarenas stated.
Senior Technical Leader K. Venkatesh Prasad added, "Silicon Valley represents a deep and dynamic technology neighborhood and is far from Dearborn. With so many opportunities and so much potential, our new lab will allow us to scout new technologies and partners in their own environment and continue our expansion beyond the traditional automaker mindset to drive innovation for a better mobility experience."