Ford opens new research center in Palo Alto | News | Palo Alto Online |


Ford opens new research center in Palo Alto

Company plans to have 125 employees at Hillview Avenue facility by end of the year

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Seeking to hit the gas pedal on new technologies such as self-driving cars and immerse itself in Silicon Valley's big-data culture, Ford Motor Company on Thursday opened its new Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto.

The new facility at 3200 Hillview Ave., is a dramatic expansion for Ford's local operation, which since 2012 included about a dozen researchers and engineers. According to Ford, the center plans to have about 125 researchers, engineers and scientists working at the Stanford Research Center site by the end of the year, making the new facility one of the "largely automotive manufacturer research center in Silicon Valley." The company also announced that a further expansion is planned "in the near future."

The new center will be led by engineer Dragus Maciuca, most recently from Apple, and will focus on "connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience and big data."

Mark Fields, the company's president and CEO, said the company views itself as "both a mobility and an auto company, as we drive innovation in every part of our business."

One of the projects that the company is working on includes a Nest thermostat that connects the car to the home and automatically adjusts the home temperature when the driver is about to arrive or leave, based on preferences.

The company has also plunged into the self-driving-vehicle market and contributed a Fusion Autonomous Research Vehicle to a Stanford team that is testing the various required planning-and-prediction algorithms.

The company's Palo Alto team has recently developed a virtual test environment called aDRIVE that resembles a video game and that allows the company to "test algorithms such as traffic sign recognition in dynamic driving situations," according to the company's announcement.

The company's Palo Alto-based engineers are also reportedly developing sensor kits to gather information from bicyclists and other common forms of urban transportation, including wheel speed, acceleration and altitude. The data, according to the company, can "provide insight into how alternate modes of transportation might be best positioned to serve future urban mobility needs."

Fields said in a statement that the new research center "shows Ford's commitment to be part of the Silicon Valley innovation ecosystem – anticipating customers' wants and needs, especially on connectivity, mobility and autonomous vehicles."

"We are working to make these new technologies accessible to everyone, not just luxury customers," Fields said.

Raj Nair, Ford's vice president for global product development and chief technical officer, said future mobility solutions will require "fresh ideas and vigorous collaboration between researchers inside Ford and with other technology leaders outside the automotive industry."

"Our Palo Alto research team will build on existing relationships with universities and technology companies, and forge new ones to help us create and apply the appropriate technology working together," Nair said in a statement.

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Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2015 at 8:55 pm

this is terrific. we have other car companies doing research here in Palo Alto BMW comes to mind.
as I read this article I was thinking that the infrastructure plans for the future by local state and federal governments need to be smarter as well.
I think that the private car companies and people like Google are off to a good start and the connectivity with the infrastructure providers is needed as well. not sure that could happen

1 person likes this
Posted by Skeptic
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2015 at 11:04 am

I am uneasy about self driving cars. The dangers seem too apparent. But the corporations jump on the newest shiny gimmick and we are supposed to applaud "progress."
I'm not convinced.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 23, 2015 at 11:09 am

BMW research is in Mountain View now

Like this comment
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Welcome back to Palo Alto Ford Motor Company. Ford Aerospace and Communications used to be at what is now the Loral / SSL site on Fabian Way, East Meadow Circle, and other buildings in the Charleston Road area east of 101. What a great history for the company. Great engineering produces great results.

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2015 at 6:49 pm

> not sure about self-driving cars

US Census/Motor Vehicle Accidents:
Web Link

For the past twenty years there have been 10+M motor vehicle accidents here in the US, resulting in 45K to 35K fatalities. It's really hard to believe that self-driving cars won't bring these numbers down a lot.

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 24, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Should have been--

For the past twenty years there have been 10+M motor vehicle accidents per year here in the US, resulting in 45K to 35K fatalities per year.

Like this comment
Posted by PA North
a resident of University South
on Jan 25, 2015 at 9:13 am

Glad to see FoMoCo is investing in new alt trans. Buggy whips are no longer needed. But to think that the future is all bout solar and wind is a fallacy. Internal combustion will not die very soon. (Remember peak oil?). How about uber-high MPG diesel? Or LPG? Self driving is all the rage, but just let me get from A to B for less money outta pocket.

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