Ford Motor Co. has opened a research center in Silicon Valley to accelerate its development of technologies and experiments in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data.
The Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto will feature a partnership with Stanford that will help Ford move to the next phase of its testing of autonomous vehicle technology. Ford hopes to further work it began with the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle.
Ford has also hired an experienced engineer from Apple, Dragos Maciuca, to serve as senior technical leader at the center. Ford's additional hiring plans would give it one of the largest automotive research teams in the nation's technology hub.
The new center joins Ford’s global network of research and innovation centers, including its location in Dearborn, Mich., which focuses on advanced electronics, human-machine interface, materials science, big data and analytics; and Aachen, Germany, which focuses on next-generation powertrain research, driver-assist technologies and active safety systems.
By the end of the year, Ford expects to have one of the largest automotive manufacturer research centers in Silicon Valley with 125 researchers, engineers and scientists. Located in Stanford Research Park, the facility also expands Ford's physical footprint and will allow further expansion in the near future. Ford opened its first Silicon Valley office in 2012.
In the area of connectivity, Ford is working on an interface that would allow a driver to control a Nest thermostat using an "Auto-Away" mode. In the mobility area, Ford is testing the ability to remotely operate golf garts from thousands of miles away. Ford began collaborating with Stanford in 2013 on automated driving, and plans to expand a partnership that led to the Ford Fusion Hybrid automated sedan.
In the the customer-service area, Ford is testing an advanced human-machine interface to understand how customers prefer to control systems with a significant amoung of functionality such as a high-tech multicontour seat.
In the big data and analytics area, Ford is studying how customers are using their vehicles, and is conducting analytics to detect patterns and learnings that could lead to product improvements or new mobility services.