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Ford Mustang 2016 Welcome
Welcome - Ford Mustang - Ford Motor Company

The Ford Motor Company of 2014 has gone through many positive changes over the last year. Sales continue to rise in all regions, The One Ford initiative is unfolding worldwide, its SYNC 3 technology was unveiled and it joined with TechStars Detroit to incubator promising startups.

Ford Motor Company 2014 Recap and What’s Coming in 2015. Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO and Bill Ford talk about One Ford.

Chris Rauschnot 24kMedia Ford Trends 2014
Chris Rauschnot 24kMedia Ford Trends

Disclaimer: The Ford Motor Company provided my travel and accommodations to cover their announcements in Dearborn, Michigan. All opinions and experiences expressed here are my own.

Henry Ford at The Henry Dearborn Michigan
Henry Ford at The Henry Dearborn Michigan

Going into 2015, the Ford Motor Company is poised to realize several of their initiatives from 2014 and 2013. The One Ford idea is all about linking the resources of the company from around the world so that any department can collaborate. This is big because many of the future car designs will be rolling out worldwide. There are a few exceptions in emerging markets like China and Brazil.

Ford 1933 V8 The Henry Dearborn
Ford 1933 V8 Art - The Henry Dearborn Michigan

Innovation and technology integration at Ford will be propelled even further by 3,000 new hires. A thousand or more of those jobs will be added to their Rouge F-150 production plant, due to demand and the changeover to a military grade aluminum chassis.

SYNC 3 Announcement and Demo At Ford Motor Company Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan by Raj Nair.

Ford’s SYNC technology is deployed fleet wide, including in their Fiesta models. 2015 will see the launch of SYNC 3, a departure from Microsoft Auto. Ford wanted to make a big change in 2015 to compete with other vendors, so they decided on the QNX platform that Blackberry acquired in 2010.

Raj Nair Ford SYNC 3
Raj Nair Demos Ford SYNC 3

During the Ford Trends and NAIAS 2015 preview event, I saw their SYNC technology get a big upgrade. SYNC 3 is more responsive to voice commands, it can understand street addresses better and parse points of interest requests from common speech. The dashboard demo Ford provided after the press conference shows the promise of this system in the real world.

Looking to the future is top of mind at Ford. Their partnership with TechStars Detroit furthers that initiative by providing resources including industry contacts and a seed round of funding. Companies that graduate from TechStars Detroit will have the option to work with Ford if they choose.

Bill Ford, Chairman at Ford Motor Company, is excited to be involved with TechStars for good reason. This program will help Detroit and Dearborn to attract budding tech companies and needed entrepreneurs to the area. Innovation in the auto industry should accelerate at a rapid pace in 2015 and beyond, as the first graduates of the incubator release products and cloud based services.

TechStars Mobility Driven By Detroit Tech Incubator Announcement at Ford Motor Company HQ in Dearborn, Michigan.

After the presentations, we were given a chance to visit and engage Ford employees in various parts of the company. I choose to see what they were doing in the collective computing and virtual reality spaces.

Creating a virtual rendering of a new vehicle used to take thousands of computers at specialized companies. With the advent of computer clusters, companies like Ford can order hot swappable blades that have hundreds of processing cores to be added to their network. This enables them to render a new car with color, light and shading between hours and days, rather than weeks and months.

Computing power available today now enables car manufacturers to change a door panel design without disturbing the rest of a rendering, which would normally result in many more days of processing.

Ford would not say exactly how many processors they are running in their cluster, but it should be about 6+ thousand to 8+ thousand CPUs. The One Ford initiative connects their international groups to use the cluster when it is available.

Ford HQ Virtual Reality Hardware
Ford HQ Virtual Reality Hardware

From the cluster presentation room, I went with a small group to their virtual car lab. There are tracking sensors all around the room, including the ceiling. A specialized headset and a “light wand” allowed for us to tour around a car in real time, while it rendered in 4k.

Ford HQ Virtual Reality 4k Rendering Hardware
Ford HQ Virtual Reality 4k Rendering Hardware

The engineer in the room mentioned to our group that the VR system helped designers to find a weird gap on a door panel. That gap was then fixed in the car’s design a few hours later.

Ford HQ Virtual Reality 4up
Ford HQ Virtual Reality Overview

Once the designers go over their virtual cars, a clay model is sculpted to refine everything even more. VR designing and exploration augments the overall process of creating new cars and trucks, which reduces the time needed for them to go into production.

Mark Fields CEO of Ford Motor Company

Mark Fields, CEO of the Ford Motor Company, expressed his excitement for the progress that the Blue Oval has made this year in emerging markets like China and Brazil. The dealerships in China are selling at rates rivaling that of their European divisions. With numbers like that, the car company is on track to have a breakout year in 2015.

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