The Ford Motor Company is around 114 years old. Beyond literally starting the automotive industry, this company has set milestone after milestone in terms of innovation and design. For a time, it was even the premier American automotive company in existence. To this day, it still retains many top spots including the number one pickup truck sold in the US. Given all these accolades, one might wonder what the future holds for this company.If you thought, “Ford is going into the software business,” you would surprisingly be right. For the first time in its 114 year existence, Ford recently reported the drive to go into new territory: artificial intelligence and operating systems. AI is a pretty clear connection to the automotive industry given the push for autonomous driving capabilities. An operating system, however, is a little bit different.If you aren’t familiar with the term, the concept is simple. Many computers, devices, and other electronics often have some kind of operating system to allow humans to control and interact with the tech. If you’re familiar with something like Microsoft Windows or the Mac OS, this is exactly what Ford has set its eyes on.Why? That’s the million-dollar question. On the surface, it may seem rather random for a company to be looking at developing something outside of its wheelhouse. Rest assured, however, there is a logic to this madness.
A New Paradigm for Transportation
It is clear that things are changing within the automotive industry. Electric cars are becoming more and more popular. The potential for autonomous driving vehicles is increasing every day. Even the presence of modern-day infotainment systems, intelligent safety features, and other high-tech options we didn’t have a decade ago all indicate the automotive industry is moving towards a more technological tomorrow.Ford is trying to make its own mark on this technological future. While other companies are spending billions on developing specific technologies that expand a car’s capability, Ford sees a missing ingredient that will be key to overall future success. That is something to tie it all together. In other words, they believe there is a need for an operating system.This points to a new paradigm in future driving and transportation. Much like how everything around us is becoming connected via smart devices and the Internet of Things, Ford believes that the same trend will expand into the automotive industry. There will be a new way of connecting all the various technologies together that will even extend beyond the car itself.In a way, Ford envisions a future where vehicles are connected with their surroundings. The concept of a smart city, for example, continues to grow in popularity and becomes more and more of a reality each day. If the car could talk with the streets and roads, with the traffic lights around it, and the other vehicles in traffic, it can exchange important information and adjust its driving behaviors depending on the context around it. To achieve such a thing, a car would require an operating system to manage all the individual technologies along with the human interaction.
Steps Ford Is Taking
Many times, this kind of vision for the future is nothing but talk. It is nice to get a warm and fuzzy feeling when thinking about this feature, but if nothing is actually done to begin taking small steps, it will always remain just a vision. In Ford’s case, however, it has already taken these first few steps to create the necessary business infrastructure to move ahead with their plans.Just last month, Ford purchased a company known as Autonomic, a California-based business developing a cloud-based operating system meant for traffic management. The company envisions its technology being used as a way to manage interactions between different city infrastructure services, traffic and transit, navigation, and even pedestrian crossings. The technology is still new, but with the help with Ford’s support, they will be able to connect many of the individual services daily city-dwellers take for granted into a single cohesive unit that would be easy to tie into other vehicle computer system.Ford also bought another company known as TransLoc that has been developing software to manage large city transportation systems, including things like public transportation and individual services such as Uber. It is unclear how this technology may fit into Ford’s overall plan, but the company is confident this is a step in the right direction.
Basically, Ford is trying to acquire existing technology and software to make the push for an automotive operating system more possible from the start. Instead of having to spend more money and time on creating these base from scratch, the company can use the work of others to get ahead. These moves also bring new experts and workers into the fold who may be more experienced with this type of technology.
Overall, Ford is in preparation mode. Moving forward, the company might make additional moves and purchases to expand their tech department. This will prepare them for more research and development in the future.
What Does the Future Hold?
Can we expect fancy flying cars hitting Ford dealers anytime soon? Probably not, but it is a pretty safe bet that more advanced technological development will continue to happen in the next few years. While other auto manufacturers are putting more and more funding into the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, including more efficient motors and batteries, Ford is focusing on the greater picture. If it manages to pull off this vision, we could realistically be looking at an auto industry that is more digitally connected with the infrastructure and transportation systems it uses in major cities. Over time, the same technology could even spread to rural areas as well.More than anything else, the steps the company has already taken prove Ford is on a separate path from the competition. Will it start to develop its own autonomous car? Who really knows except for the top brass in the company. You can expect, however, for Ford to tie everything together into a single cohesive system when it starts to roll out the fruits of its labor.