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Ford Names Autonomous Vehicle Executive

October 31, 2016

Laura Merling, vice president of autonomous vehicle solutions for Ford Smart Mobility. Photo courtesy of Ford.
Laura Merling, vice president of autonomous vehicle solutions for Ford Smart Mobility. Photo courtesy of Ford.

Ford Motor Co. has appointed Laura Merling as vice president of autonomous vehicle solutions for Ford Smart Mobility, the automaker’s subsidiary focused on emerging mobility services.

Merling, who will report to Ford Smart Mobility Chairman Jim Hackett, will be based in Palo Alto, Calif. She is a 20-year veteran of Silicon Valley.

Merling will lead the company’s efforts to commercialize autonomous vehicles. Ford has announced its intent to have a high-volume SAE level 4 fully autonomous vehicle in commercial operation by 2021.

“While Ford’s technical teams invent and further develop the technology of autonomous vehicles, we need to invent and develop the commercialization strategy to connect this technology with the uses and users that will truly change the way the world moves,” Hackett said. “Laura has deep experience innovating strategy and platform development for both startup and corporate organizations. She also brings a significant external network through her Internet of Things consultancy and startup board advisory roles.”

In addition to her role with Ford Smart Mobility, Merling will continue to serve in an advisory role for several startups working on Internet of Things connectivity, machine learning, and digital manufacturing. These include WivityThin SystemsAlluvium.io, and Authentise.    

Merling comes to Ford after running her own consultancy focused on the intersection of hardware, firmware, and software in the Internet of Things. Prior to that, she was global general manager and executive vice president of Internet of Things for SAP. In this role, Merling led the go-to-market strategy for the Internet of Things business.

Prior to SAP, Merling served as vice president of enterprise digital transformation for AT&T. In this role, she led the enterprise customer innovation program, launching big data and Internet of Things solutions. In addition, Merling launched web services including the Mobile Identity Toolkit and the company’s cloud-based voice platform, while also developing business automation solutions and leading complex partnerships.

“I am excited by the opportunity to be part of the biggest change in transportation in more than a century,” Merling said. “The challenge of building the business models to commercialize autonomous vehicles perfectly aligns with the more than two decades I’ve spent working on the edge of innovation and business.”

Ford Smart Mobility is working with Ford’s product development, research and advanced engineering, marketing, and data analytics teams to develop commercial mobility services and invest in promising mobility-related ventures.

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