Ford has opened the doors to its new research centre, appropriately located in the US technology hub of Silicon Valley.
The centre will focus on advancements in connectivity, ‘big data’, autonomous vehicles and what Ford calls the ‘customer experience’.
And to kick things off, Ford has wooed ex-Apple engineer Dragos Maciuca to lead what the carmaker says will soon be one of the biggest automotive research teams in Silicon Valley.
“Future mobility solutions will require fresh ideas and vigorous collaboration between researchers inside Ford and with other technology leaders outside the automotive industry,” Ford Chief Technical Officer, Raj Nair, said.
“Our [research] team will build on existing relationships with universities and technology companies, and forge new ones to help us create and apply the appropriate technology working together.”
One of those partnerships has just been forged with Stanford University, with Ford delivering its Fusion (Mondeo) hybrid autonomous prototype to a group of engineering students for the next phase of testing.
Another is with the ‘Nest’ app, with Ford developing a means through which its cars can communicate with an owner’s residence.
As the owner drives away, their car can automatically tell Nest to adjust the climate control to an ‘away’ setting, saving energy and money for the owner.
Upon their return, the app will be instructed to adjust the climate to the owner’s preferred temperature just before the occupant has arrived home.
Nest can also act as a burglar alarm, informing the owner of an emergency situation from home whilst behind the wheel.
The centre will also work on a more “natural” voice-recognition system, with a more powerful processor for faster commands.
Further projects include Ford’s vision for future car-sharing operations, which involve a form of remote ‘valet parking’ whereby a control centre will be able to instruct a car to drive itself to where the customer is located - rather than the customer having to locate the car.
The new facility joins other Ford research centres in Michigan in the US, along with Aachen, Germany.