Ford Motor Company is opening a research lab in Silicon Valley that will be about emerging technologies just as much as it is about cars.
The company announced Friday morning that it will open its first dedicated research lab on the west coast early this year. The facility will be used as a way to collaborate with all the tech firms that are in the area.
"Ford has an incredible heritage of driving innovation in the transportation and manufacturing sectors during the past 107 years," Paul Mascarenas, Ford chief technical officer and vice president of Research and Innovation, said. "Now it's time to prepare for the next 100 years, ushering in a new era of collaboration and finding new partners to help us transform what it means to be an automaker."
Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally will speak more on the new research lab during Ford’s CES Innovation Power Panel keynote on January 11.
The company said that Ford Research and Innovation, the company’s engineering arm, will open the new research lab in the first quarter. Its focus will be keeping pace with consumer trends and preparing for the future by investing in technologies like cloud computing.
The lab will connect with Ford’s Advanced Design Studio in Irvine, California and Ford employees working with Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.
"Silicon Valley represents a deep and dynamic technology neighborhood and is far from Dearborn," K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for open innovation with Ford Research and Innovation, said. "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 number of employees at the new lab will be comparable to a tech start-up. The emphasis will be placed on quality over quantity.
The new lab will not replace work already being done at Ford’s other research labs in Dearborn, Michigan, its European lab in Aachen, Germany or the recently opened technology office in Nanjing, China.
Some of the things that Ford’s R&D groups are working on right now include OpenXC, a research platform that allows developers access to Ford vehicles to connect with cloud-based apps and services, and allowing access to the cars’ sensors to develop apps that connect with their vehicles.
"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 said. "The new Silicon Valley lab will propel us further as we look at the many facets of life where mobility interacts with society and see how we can make those experiences better for millions of customers around the world."