Google and Ford join forces to reinvent the way we experience cars. The recently signed six-year partnership is intended to catalyze Ford’s business transformation to keep pace with an increasingly digital economy and mobility market. Is this the future of connected cars?
Taking a next step on its evolutionary automotive innovation journey that spans electrification, connectivity, and self-driving, Ford recently announced its partnership with Google to reinforce its digital competences. With Google providing knowledge & best practices in fields like data, AI, infotainment development, and more, this strategic alliance will enable Ford to accelerate the development of its digital capabilities. Traditionally a problem area for OEMs, in-car software & infotainment systems are also part of the deal.
Android, cloud, and OTA technologies
The alliance of the two companies will bring the integration of Google’s Android technology and its cloud-based capabilities to the cars manufactured by Ford. As part of the deal, all Ford and Lincoln models will use Android technology from 2023 on. The ambitious project also aims to rethink how Ford vehicles are engineered, purchased, driven, and updated throughout their operation.
Specifically, Ford’s design, engineering, and assembly processes will be updated as part of this cooperation in order to enhance the manufacturer’s parts supply chain. In parallel, this partnership enables Ford to update its distribution network, increasing its reliance on digital sales processes, an ongoing trend that automotive OEMs are racing to get the upper hand in.
Another major area of innovation for the new alliance will target the development of OTA (over-the-air) updates in cars. In addition to providing software updates using wireless connections, better utilizing connectivity will also enable Ford to send notifications to vehicle owners, deliver tweaks, and even to fix certain car problems “on the fly”, without requiring the driver to visit a service station. This may open up new business opportunities including on-demand entertainment and downloadable safety features.
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For customers, the integration of Google’s technology in Ford cars may make the digital aspects of driving and vehicle ownership vastly more convenient. From 2023, Ford vehicles will provide access to Google Assistant (for voice control), Google Maps (for navigation), and Google Play (for entertainment) out of the box. Ford will still offer Apple CarPlay in its cars, making most digital vehicle capabilities accessible to Apple users.
Outlook: Team Upshift & digital alliances
As part of the partnership, Ford and Google are setting up Team Upshift, a joint group to accelerate digital innovation going forward. The primary goal of Team Upshift will be to enable “personalized consumer experiences and drive disruptive, data-driven opportunities”. In other words, Ford’s alliance with Google seems to be one of the first steps towards a much talked-about goal for automotive developers: unlocking new, digital-first business opportunities.
This isn’t the first time we’re noticing tech companies making inroads into the auto industry. In recent years, we have seen similar partnerships sprouting up across the mobility sector.
One notable example is that of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi. The group announced in 2018 that it’s launching a Google-based, new-generation infotainment system in its cars starting in 2021. In the meantime, Volvo reported in 2018 that it’s also relying on Google’s technology to build a new infotainment system for its vehicles. Most recently, Volkswagen announced that it will build on Microsoft's technology to align its tech stack in the development of self-driving software solutions.
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