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Ford Sets up Shop in Silicon Valley

New R&D center part of shift in thinking about car as mobile “platform.”

by on Jan.06, 2012

Ford's new Silicon Valley center will be located near key tech giants like HP, Microsoft and Google - as well as Stanford University.

Ford Motor Co. is setting up a new research lab in California’s fabled Silicon Valley, underscoring the Detroit maker’s efforts to turn the car into a mobile “platform,” rather than just a mechanical conveyance.

The new facility will help Ford develop a variety of new features and apps for its future products, from high-tech safety systems to advanced infotainment systems, company officials note.  It will be used to develop partnerships with both established technology firms – such as Microsoft, which developed the underlying software behind Ford’s popular Sync system – and start-ups.

The lab, which will be located near Stanford University, in Palo Alto, will help by “ushering in a new era of collaboration and finding new partners to help us transform what it means to be an automaker,” explained Ford’s Chief Technical Officer Paul Mascarenas, who suggested the move is “a very natural extension” for the second-largest of the U.S. makers.

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Ford has put a heavy emphasis on technology in recent years – as have many of its competitors.  Mark Fields, Ford’s President of the Americas, frequently talks about “democratizing technology,” by taking high-tech systems previously found in limited use on luxury products and putting it into high-volume production on mainstream models like the new Ford Fusion.