Ford Motor Company plans to create and open its first dedicated research lab in Silicon Valley early this year. The new Ford lab will be located in the San Francisco Bay area of California and will serve as a hub for independent technology projects and identification of new research investments and partners located along the West Coast, according to Ford.

Ford said the lab will create an “innovation network” connecting Ford’s Advanced Design Studio in Irvine, Calif., and Ford employees working with its connectivity platform partner Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash.

“Silicon Valley represents a deep and dynamic technology neighborhood and is far from Dearborn,” said K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for open innovation with Ford Research and Innovation. “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.”

The automaker's Prasad said the new Silicon Valley lab will not duplicate or replace work being done at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, its European facility in Aachen, Germany, or the recently established technology office in Nanjing, China.

The new facility will be focusing on the following projects, among others:

Personal mobility: Ford is researching new business models designed to help avoid gridlock via a “holistic” approach to personal transportation, the company stated.

Open-source hardware and software developer kits: Working with New York City-based startup Bug Labs, Ford is launching OpenXC, a research platform designed to allow developers to access key vehicle data to create cloud-based applications and services. Ford stated the first OpenXC beta developer kits will be shipped this month to several participating universities including MIT, University of Michigan and Stanford.

The car as a sensor: Ford is opening the vehicle’s sensor data channels to developers. For example, San Francisco-based Weather Underground is looking at ways to leverage vehicle windshield wiper activations to improve its weather proximity reporting, Ford stated.