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Ford makes Google preferred cloud partner for next-generation connected car push

The Ford Motor Company has gone public with details of the next phase of its ongoing connected car push, which involves a newly struck six-year tech collaboration with Google

Ford Motor Company has named Google its preferred cloud provider, as part of a wide-ranging six-year technology collaboration with the firm that is geared towards bringing a new generation of connected cars to market.

The partnership will see Ford gain access to the full breadth of Google Cloud’s big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence product portfolio, and see the pair collaborate to create services designed to enhance the consumer driving and vehicle ownership experience.

The latter work will be carried out under the Team Upshift banner, which will see the pair pool their in-house talent and data resources to create more personalised services for consumers. 

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian described the technology partnership between the two firms as a union that is set to transform both Ford and the wider automotive industry, during a virtual press conference where details of the deal were announced.

“With Google Cloud, Ford will digitally transform – from the front office to the car to the manufacturing plant floor – and there are a number of different applications [for Google Cloud technologies], including modernising product development, improving manufacturing and supply chain management,” he said.

The companies are also plotting to create new business models using the data Ford derives from its connected car setups, so that motorists can receive timely and real-time reminders about maintenance requests, for example.

From 2023 onwards, all Ford vehicles will be Android-powered, added Kurian, and will have Google Apps and other services installed such as Google Maps for navigation, Google Assistant to enable hands-free interactivity and Google Play for in-car entertainment purposes.

David McClelland, vice-president of strategy and partnerships at Ford, said the partnership represents the beginning of a new chapter in the company’s connected car strategy, which is already assisting the firm with bringing about improvements to the quality of vehicles it produces and the ownership experience for customers.

“We’ve got world-class in-house data insights and analytics teams [at Ford], we’ve recruited significant software expertise, and we’re making great progress in this area. We’re moving rapidly towards [creating] a commercial self-driving business, and with this news…we’re turbocharging all of that,” he said.

“We [Google and Ford] believe that the relationship between Google and Ford will establish an innovation powerhouse. It will accelerate the modernisaiton of our business at Ford and – most importantly – exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Ford is no stranger to striking up partnerships with cloud providers in support of its connected car ambitions, as the firm previously invested $182.2m in platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider Pivotal for this purpose back in 2016.

Meanwhile, Ford’s Autonomic subsidiary secured multi-year support from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in April 2019 for its push to create an open cloud platform to support the future development of connected car technology

During the virtual Q&A, McClelland moved to clarify that declaring Google to be its “preferred cloud partner” would not put the company at risk of supplier lock-in nor would it mean the firm would have to cease working with other cloud providers.

“All our eggs are not in one basket. We continue to work with other cloud providers, and our preferred provider will be Google,” he said.

Pedro Pacheco, senior director of research for the automotive and smart mobility space at Gartner, told Computer Weekly that the partnership is an important milestone for Google Cloud, as many of its rivals in the public cloud space have struck similar deals with major car manufacturers in the past.

“However, we shouldn’t think Google is playing catch up – quite far from that. The company has taken a very strong position as a provider of infotainment operating systems in just a couple of years, signing agreements with several original equipment manufacturers like General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, RenaultNissan, Volvo/Polestar and soon PSA,” he said. 

The company also has a strong play in the autonomous vehicle space in the form of Waymo, he added. “Last but not least, Android Auto is already present in a vast number of cars around the world, having been Google’s main entry point into the vehicle ecosystem since several years.

“However, the cloud partnership with Ford rounds up an overall strong presence across several different areas of the automotive ecosystem,” he said.

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