Ford Motor Co. and Google announced a strategic partnership on Monday that’s meant to more quickly modernise the 117-year-old automaker in unique ways and more aggressively use data to drive revenue and improve customer experience.
Ford will start exploring this year the use of technology to provide oversight and quality control of factory robotics as well as additional training of UAW members on the plant floors, while Ford customers will start seeing new driver experiences in the 2023 calendar year.
What does this all mean? Ford drivers will have access to voice technology, like Google Assistant, allowing them to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while multitasking. And Google Maps offers information on real-time traffic, automatic rerouting and lane guidance. With Google Play, drivers may access apps for listening to personalised music, podcasts and audiobooks in the vehicle.
Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud CEO, and David McClelland, Ford vice president of Strategy and Partnerships, revealed the details in a virtual news conference. The effort is meant to enhance driver enjoyment and safety through connectivity.
This six-year collaboration involving Ford products globally is designed to “elevate the automotive industry and reinvent connected vehicle customer experiences,” Ford said.
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The Dearborn automaker has named Google Cloud its provider for data, artificial intelligence and machine learning management. Millions of vehicles will be powered by Android with Google apps and services built in, Ford said in its release.
The company has created Team Upshift to “drive the ongoing innovation” and “push the boundaries of Ford’s transformation, unlock personalised consumer experiences, and drive disruptive, data-driven opportunities.”
Jim Farley, CEO of Ford, said in a news release, “As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernise our business.”
“From the first moving assembly line to the latest driver-assist technology, Ford has set the pace of innovation for the automotive industry for nearly 120 years,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, in a statement.
“We’re proud to partner to apply the best of Google’s AI, data analytics, compute and cloud platforms to help transform Ford’s business and build automotive technologies that keep people safe and connected on the road.”
With Google Cloud, Ford said the company plans to improve customer experience with technology and personalised services, accelerate product development, manufacturing and supply chain management, and speed up real-time customer notices for maintenance and other activity.
Enhanced technology is intended to minimise driver distraction and provide vehicle improvements with over-the-air updates, now used by Tesla and a familiar process with cell phones.
“Android in the car also enables Ford and third-party developers to build apps that provide a constantly improving and ever-more-personalised ownership experience,” Ford said.
Farley said “We are obsessed with creating must-have, distinctively Ford products and services. This integration will unleash our teams to innovate for Ford and Lincoln customers while seamlessly providing access to Google’s world-class apps and services.”
The future for all automakers involves partnerships with technology companies now because “data is king,” said Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for AutoTrader.
“This is the future,” she said. “This is about data collection, storage and ultimately monetising that data collection.”
In addition, Krebs said, the value of using data analysis for logistics support can’t be overstated. During a period when the industry is being hampered by a shortage in semiconductor chips used in vehicles, including Ford, analysts see the supply chain is fragile and more data can only help.
“Maybe it can be used to protect against possible breaks in the supply chain,” Krebs said. “This global chip shortage is a serious thing.”
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