Google and Ford are teaming up in an alliance meant to “reinvent” virtually every aspect of the car business, from the way vehicles are designed, engineered and assembled to the way customers shop and then experience their vehicles.
Among other things, motorists will be able to download features they might not originally have purchased, as well as new safety and infotainment technology that wasn’t originally available, Ford and Google officials said during a Monday morning news conference.
“As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernize our business,” said Jim Farley, president and CEO of Ford.
Virtually every aspect of the auto business has been touched by technology in recent decades — and the alliance, which will rely on Google’s Android operating system and its cloud-based computing network, is meant to take things a big step forward.
The two new allies expect to make significant changes to the way Ford designs, engineers and assembles vehicles while improving the operation of both the parts supply chain as well as the automaker’s distribution network.
Ford and Google aim to develop a more flexible and personalized shopping experience that takes advantage of the surge in online car buying. The Android-based operating system, meanwhile, will be able to monitor a vehicle once it’s out on the road, warning owners if there’s a mechanical problem developing — while also advising them if it’s time for service, even automatically setting up a dealer appointment.
By using smartphone-style over-the-air, or OTA, updates, meanwhile, Ford expects to be able to tweak a vehicle’s software, in many case fixing problems on the fly without requiring an owner to bring the car in for a recall.
Ford’s latest version of its in-car infotainment system, Sync 4, already has limited OTA capabilities. The automaker plans to use that to allow owners of the newly updated F-150 pickup and Mustang Mach-E battery-electric vehicle to download the hands-free Active Drive Assist system once it is completed later this year.
Going forward, Ford will be able to use the wireless system to offer other features to customers, including new smart safety technology as well as streaming entertainment content.
While officials wouldn’t go into detail, it’s expected that streaming content — and the downloading of Android-based apps could provide a new revenue source for the partners. But while Google collects a significant amount of user data it then monetizes through smartphones and computers, David McClelland, Ford vice president of strategy and partnerships stressed “Google (will) not have access to Ford data in the Google cloud.”
The Ford Sync name will be retained going forward, according to the automaker. And it will continue to offer access to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant on future products, along with the competing Google Home technology. Motorists also will be able to pair mobile devices using other operating systems, such as Apple’s iOS, Ford expecting to continue building in Apple CarPlay after switching to Google’s Android “backbone.”
The first vehicles equipped with Android-based technology will roll out during the 2023 model-year, McClelland said, noting that the collaboration "will go across millions of vehicles worldwide. The only place it won’t be available is in China,” though there was no explanation as to why that market will be excluded.
Ford isn’t the only automaker teaming up with one of the tech giants. General Motors recently announced a similar alliance with Microsoft, and Amazon has been pushing to build its own automotive stronghold with Amazon Web Services.