Posts tagged Ford
Ford announced on Thursday it has partnered with three Techstars Mobility startups from the accelerator’s second annual class.
The three startups, Spatial, HAAS Alert, and Cargo, will continue to develop their products in Detroit with funding from Ford. It follows the end of the Techstars Mobility annual program, which lasts three months. All 12 startups received $120,000 in funding, alongside mentorship from executives at Honda, Verizon, and Apple.
Spatial is a social mapping service — think Waze meets Foursquare. Users tag places of interest, restaurants, and other locations; the app uses GPS to mark the user’s location.
HAAS Alert uses car-to-car communication to inform drivers when an emergency car is approaching. Google recently patented a system that recognizes police car flashing lights, but HAAS Alert’s method removes the painfully loud sirens from the roads.
Ford backs a store on wheels
Cargo integrates a general store into a taxi, allowing riders to purchase snacks, drinks, and cosmetics while on route to work.
“The possibilities are endless when you combine the experience and influence of a storied company like Ford with the energy and innovation of these inspiring startups,” said Bill Coughlin, Ford global technologies president and CEO.
Ford hasn’t confirmed if any of the three products will be integrated into the company’s first autonomous car, coming in 2021.
The inside the autonomous car is going to look a lot different from the cars of today. We are already seeing concepts that add much more leg space, screens, and tables. By the time we get to 2021, vending machines might not seem like such a weird addition.
Ford CEO Mark Fields confirmed that a ride-hailing app would launch alongside the autonomous car in major cities. There’s little doubt Ford is looking into new distractions for customers, like a vending machine, which could add more revenue per drive.
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Automotive giant Ford has pledged to double the size of its Silicon Valley team by the end of 2017 and also invested $75 million into Velodyne, which sells LiDAR (light imaging, detection, and ranging) sensors for cars.
The dual announcements show an increase in commitment to technology inside cars, especially autonomous tech. Ford is behind the curve compared to Tesla, Google, and rival General Motors, which has acquired its own autonomous startup, partnered with Lyft, and plans to build a huge tech center.
Ford’s Silicon Valley operations currently employ 130 engineers and scientists, this will rise to 260 by the end of 2017. It will expand the campus from 30,000 to 180,000 square feet.
“We will have one of the largest automotive presences in Silicon Valley by the end of the year,” said Ford CEO Mark Fields. “We really want to be part of the community. We view ourselves both as an automotive company and a mobility company.”
Mobility is a buzzword that a lot of automotive firms have been using the past year. It suggests that automotive firms, like Silicon Valley, think autonomous cars will reduce car ownership and increase taxi services.
Ford: Self-driving tech is this century’s “assembly line”
Fields expects autonomy to be a major deal, he said to CNBC’s Squawk Box: “Autonomous vehicles could have just have as significant of an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago.”
The other announcement is a little less exciting, Velodyne and Ford have been partners for some time. Ford’s $75 million investment signals that Velodyne will be a key supplier of LiDAR for its self-driving car. Search engine Baidu, which is building its own self-driving system, also invested in the company.
It is not Ford’s first Silicon Valley investment either, in May it invested $182 million in Pivotal, a software development firm that worked on FordPass.
That said, it still hasn’t completed a major acquisition for a tech startup. That might be necessary for Ford to get a lead in the autonomous car race, or it could partner with Google, which was rumored in 2015.
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