Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford, says he wants to transform the carmaker into a mobility services company. He says the firm will be working towards providing transportation as a service rather than a hardware product. Because of this, he says partnerships are key in moving the auto industry forward.
"I do think that partnerships will be important because if you think back to my great grandfather where the vision was (a) vertically integrated company... that will be very different in the future...because one company can't and probably shouldn't know it all and do it all," Ford said at the Dublin Web Summit on Tuesday (3 November) on whether the car firm may partner with the likes of Apple and Google to make driverless technology.
Apple and Google are currently testing driverless cars in the US. The auto industry has been a big focus for technology companies as they begin to expand past their core business. However, Ford has made moves to encourage startups in the transportation space, having opened R&D lab in Silicon Valley, in a move for new technology companies to collaborate with Ford.
"You have autonomous driving, connected cars, new ways of accessing ownership like Zipcar, Uber or Lyft, you have data collection. We are looking at all of it," he told the audience at Europe's largest technology event.
"In my great grandfather's time, when he founded Ford, there was a single vertical, where they did everything. But one company shouldn't know it all or do it all. That's going to change.
"We are now at the point where we are at the threshold of a series of revolutions in our industries. And I think the new entrants... will only make it better. And to me it's really exciting and there are great partnership opportunities too."
Ford is experimenting with different ways to use cars beyond transportation. The company is helping to map remote areas in South Africa and Nigeria, and working with NGOs to collect and transmit data from these rural areas around sanitation and healthcare. They are also driving Ford SUVs out to rural areas that are not well-mapped to meet with expectant mothers to transmit data and information to urban doctors who can monitor their health and well-being.
Ford expressed the level of change is twice as fast as initially thought. "We used to think autonomised driving was 25-30 years away, it's not," he said. "The level of disruption is coming at us much faster than we thought."
The carmaker's executive chairman said wants the company's cars to be more interactive to suit the digital-savvy consumer but also wants to maintain simplicity. He added: "We have to remember that there's a customer at the other end who just wants their life to work, the technology has to be thoughtfully integrated."