Silicon Valley Research Facility should improve Ford’s next generation connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles and the ever important customer experience. [fflash=left]http://www.youtube.com/v/_NkrUvvyC6I?version=3[/fflash]Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG - Jan. 26, 2015 Just one of the new R&D directions Ford is leading in is home climate and security control. Late last week Ford stated it will be opening a new Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley, to accelerate its development of its highest tech soft technologies intended to improve future Ford customer purchase and ownership experiences. In addition, Ford is working with Stanford University, a world renowned institution of higher learning in the sciences, also located in the heart of Silicon Valley. In that relationship, Ford is working with Stanford engineers on Autonomous driving with the company’s most advanced Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle for next phase of testing. Ford is also working with Carnegie Mellon University-Silicon Valley to develop improved embedded speech recognition that supports more natural language. The new technology relies on more natural speech patterns rather than a restricted set of commands we are currently used to. Smart, Very Smart Dragos Maciuca, the new senior technical leader for innovation, brings extensive Silicon Valley experience advising startups, developing and commercializing products, collaborating with universities and leading cross-functional teams. Maciuca holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from its Haas School of Business. After a stint at Apple, Dragos joined Ford to serve as senior technical leader at Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto. Near term, Ford will be hiring more engineers and scientists which in turn will create one of the nation’s largest automotive research teams in Silicon Valley with 125 researchers, engineers and scientists. Ford opened its first Silicon Valley office in 2012. The all-new Research and Innovation Center joins Ford’s global network of research and innovation centers, including its location in Dearborn, Michigan, which focuses on advanced electronics, human-machine interface, materials science, big data and analytics; and Aachen, Germany, which focuses on next-generation powertrain research, driver-assist technologies and active safety systems. Ford offered a sneak peek at some of its projects in key areas, including: Connectivity: Ford is integrating a home control Nest application programming interface, targeting home energy and emergency system management while on the road. A vehicle communicates with the Nest Thermostat to switch it to Auto-Away mode reducing energy use automatically when homeowners leave. Once close to home, the vehicle sends an alert to set the house thermostat to the preferred temperature. Nest Protect can warn Ford SYNC when home emergency notifications are triggered. Mobility: Ford’s Remote Repositioning mobility experiment is now in testing phase by the Palo Alto team. A person sitting in the Palo Alto laboratory can access real-time video streamed over existing 4G/LTE technology to drive vehicles thousands of miles away. Autonomous vehicles: The Palo Alto team will expand collaboration with Stanford University that kicked off in 2013. For the next phase, Ford provided a Fusion Autonomous Research Vehicle to the Stanford engineering program to begin testing the path planning-and-prediction algorithms researchers have developed over the past year. The Palo Alto team developed a virtual test environment based on gaming software, called aDRIVE (for Autonomous Driving Refined in Virtual Environments), that will test algorithms such as traffic sign recognition in dynamic driving situations. Customer experience: Ford is testing advanced human-machine interfaces to better understand how customers prefer to control systems with a significant amount of functionality. An example is the company’s multicontour seat. That features 10 adjustments plus two controls for 11 inflatable air bladders used for massage functions. Ford is researching the most intuitive and effective way to control the seat, including using natural language speech recognition and a smartphone/tablet based interface. Big data and analytics: Ford is leveraging its OpenXC platform to learn how customers are using their vehicles, and is conducting analytics to detect patterns that can lead to improvements. Ken Washington, VP of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering: NEXT based control from within car. All in, Ford is spending a lot of its earnings on the soft technologies that make driving an advanced technology ladened vehicle more intuitive, less distracting, less stressful and more enjoyable.