Ford to Open Research Lab in Silicon Valley

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-01-06 Print this article Print

Ford said the lab will become a "hub to develop a wide spectrum of partnerships with established and startup tech firms and with universities in the area, such as Stanford."

Ford Motor Co., whose vehicles have become rolling computers thanks to partnerships with Microsoft, Google, Bluetooth and others, announced Jan. 6 that it plans to open a research lab near Stanford University to get closer to IT innovators.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said that the Palo Alto, Calif., facility will be its "first-ever dedicated R&D office on the West Coast" and that it plans to open the lab within the next few months. It will employ around 15 people, including some recruited locally and others who will rotate in from Ford's headquarters.

The company is a little late to the party, although there is still plenty of room for IT development in motor vehicles of all kinds. Electric-car makers Tesla and Better Place are already headquartered in the Stanford Research Park area, which includes the Palo Alto Research Center, and BMW, General Motors and the Renault-Nissan alliance also have research centers in Silicon Valley.

Ford said the lab will become a "hub to develop a wide spectrum of partnerships with established and startup tech firms and with universities in the area, such as Stanford."

Ford licenses Microsoft's Sync in-car connectivity system and Google's Prediction API to improve energy efficiency, along with other IT software. Ford uses a sophisticated radarlike system that signals drivers when other vehicles get too close, and it also has an automatic parking feature available on some models.

K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for open innovation with Ford Research and Innovation (the company's advanced-engineering arm), said in a statement to the press that "Silicon Valley represents a deep and dynamic technology neighborhood and is far from Dearborn."

"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 he traditional automaker mindset to drive innovation for a better mobility experience," Prasad said.


Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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