Ford partners with Google to motor into the connected-vehicle age

The project is a collaborative effort to put Android Auto in Ford cars, create personalized consumer experiences, and modernize production.

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Image: Ford

Ford Motor Company has announced a partnership with Google that will create a new collaborative group, called Team Upshift, made up of Google and Ford employees. The two companies plan to use their combined expertise to move Ford into the new connected-vehicle age that Ford's VP of strategy and partnerships, David McClelland, said is becoming the new paradigm in the auto industry.

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"Most automakers already have decided if they want to lead change or cede it to others. We continue making clear through our words and investments that we plan to disrupt. But not alone. We will partner for expertise and efficiency and learn from the best so we can bring more value to the customer," McClelland said in a blog post announcing the partnership.

Along with partnering to move Ford vehicles into the connected age, Google will also become the preferred cloud provider for Ford. McClelland said Google Cloud will give Ford "Google's world-class expertise in data, artificial intelligence and machine learning," which he said will allow the two companies to work toward building safer, more efficient connected vehicles. 

As part of its adoption of Google Cloud, McClelland said Ford is exploring the potential for Google's Vision AI to help train employees and make its production lines, supply chain, and product development processes more reliable. 

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Disruption of entrenched ways of thinking, which McClelland said is another key reason for the partnership, means letting go of a "product first, services second" mindset Ford is steeped in. "As industry and customer needs shift, it's critical that we focus just as much on services as we do our vehicles. Teaming up with Google allows us to accelerate our ability to challenge our current ownership model," McClelland said.

Part of those service changes will come as the addition of Android Auto to Ford and Lincoln vehicles starting in 2023. The vehicle-hosted version of Android includes access to Google Assistant, Google Play, Google Maps, Android apps (first and third-party), and other functions typically reserved for smartphones and tablets. Ford describes its addition to its vehicles as allowing it to "divert significant software engineering talent from operating system development to the creation of unique Ford and Lincoln customer innovations." 

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Ford owners and customers may be wondering what the company plans to do with its Sync automotive platform, but TechRepublic sister site CNET Roadshow said the change only means that QNX, which currently powers Sync, will be eliminated in favor of Google services. CNET reported that a media call with Ford made no mention of branding plans, but both Sync and Apple CarPlay won't be going anywhere in the immediate future.

McClelland also mentioned new retail experiences when buying vehicles, as well as ownership offers based on connected vehicle data, which CNET said could include online vehicle buying as well.

"You're going to like what you see," McClelland said. "And we're confident you won't want to live without it." 

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