#109: Connected Vehicles: Automobiles as Technology Platform

#109: Connected Vehicles: Automobiles as Technology Platform


Hello, greetings everybody digital transformation,
whatever that buzzword means is affecting
every industry including one of the largest,
longest and most well-established industries
on the planet which is the automotive industry.
And today on episode number 109, with my co-host
Vala Afshar.
Hello Michael.
Hello Vala, we have as our guest Don Butler,
who is responsible for connected cars and
services for the Ford motor company.
Welcome Don.
Thanks Vala and hello Michael.
Don, how are you. Thank you for joining us
today.
Thank you, it’s good to be here.
Don could you start the show with background,
a little bit of background about yourself
and what you do at Ford.
Sure, sure, so I have an electrical engineering
degree from General Motors Institute, now
known as Kettering University and I have an
MBA from Harvard and have spent a vast majority
of my career in the automotive industry. First
in a series of engineering positions and then
in planning, marketing, general management
roles, business development roles.
Spent actually a brief period of time at a
start-up called Inrix, which they do traffic
data services. They’re based in Kirkland,
Washington and I’m now with Ford. And at
Ford as you said I lead connected vehicle
and services for our organisation and I work
across what we call our functional skill team,
so product development, information technology
and marketing, and I lead our thrust in terms
of connected vehicle services and experiences,
and how we are thinking differently about
you know the products and services that we
deliver to the customers, as well as increasing
the experiences that we deliver to customers
as well all in the context of connectivity.
So when I think about cars driving down the
road, I’m not thinking about wires hanging
off the car, I’m just thinking about just
going down the road. So what does it mean
connected vehicles and services?
Sure, so probably the best thing is to start
with our kind of simple definition of connectivity
and what we mean when we say connectivity
and we divided into three facets. We talk
about beamed in, brought in, and built in.
And if you think about connectivity as the
ability of the vehicle to have access to information
that’s outside the vehicle in either transmitting
information or receiving information, actually
since the days of the AM radio right we’ve
had connected vehicles right. So that’s
the first most basic form of connectivity.
Constant information that is beamed into the
vehicle, so today that is much much more sophisticated
obviously with things like satellite radio
and not only you know media and content that
you get through satellite radio for instance,
but data as well, traffic data, services,
you know weather forecast data that kind of
thing.
And from a Ford standpoint, you know we’ve
had the lead in the element of connectivity
that we call brought in connectivity. So that
is leveraging the content, the capability,
the communications capability, the media,
contacts on a smart device – smart phone
that you bring into the vehicle and so with
sync going all the way back to 2007, you know
we’ve had the sort of foresight to understand
in that consumers want to stay connected even
when they’re in a vehicle environment, and
we do that in a way that is safe, seamless,
leveraging voice for instance for control
to allow consumers to keep their hands on
the wheel and eyes on the road – for now,
right. And we can get into what the future
might hold.
Then the other aspect of connectivity is what
we call built in. So the vehicle has its own
independent node on the network, joining the
Internet of things. Having its own independent
capability of transmitting and receiving information
and so in that case we are talking about a
data modem that is part of that vehicles architecture
that allows it to transmit, receive information
to allow customers for instance to remotely
interact with that vehicle to do things like
lock, unlock, remotely start the engine. In
the case of an electric vehicle for instance,
check the status of the battery charge and
then leveraging also that built in, connectivity
to be able to do things like software updates
and make sure that that vehicle actually gets
better over time. And the challenge within
that is that it’s fundamentally different
than what we’ve historically done both for
a vehicle development standpoint as well as
the way that we approach our customers.
You know, to this point in time, you know
really if I could simplify it, it’s been
we’ve provide customers with a vehicle and
they give us money in exchange and its essentially
a onetime transaction. There is no real ongoing
relationship through that ownership period
or user period, and so what we’re doing
now is understanding that like many other
brands, services, and experiences we need
to stay connected, we need to develop that
longer term relationship, both with the vehicle
and the customer.
I saw a video, I think it was at Mobile World
Congress where you demonstrate and I believe
it was a Ford Focus electric car and it was
pretty amazing on a mobile app from how much
you can charge the device and all of the ways
that you can control and have all this intelligence
to and from the vehicle, it felt like you
know you’re connecting and having the opportunity
to build real customer intimacy by providing
tremendous amount of capability on what is
ultimately becoming the remote control for
life.
A smart phone
Yeah, a smart phone so it feels like the largest
mobile device in our lifetime will be a car
– mobile connected device. I mean why is
all of this important and you talked about
the different kind of connectivity but is
it really enhancing the customer experience
and building that more than one time interaction,
is that ultimately what’s driving the innovation.
That’s absolutely a key, and I love the
phrase that you mentioned ‘customer intimacy’
and it’s really about us as an industry,
adapting more and more to what customers are
already doing and how are customers are living
their lives today.
We kind of joked about it, but it’s true.
The smart phone has become in a sense you
know that hub of our digital life, and you
know, even the phrase ‘digital life’ at
some point digitals going to be like we joke
about it here. You don’t say the electrified
home right, it’s just – of course, homes
are electrified and you’ve got electricity.
So consumers are increasingly connected and
living digital lifestyles so in order for
us to remain relevant you know we need to
be part of that and and take advantage of
devices that their using like the smart phone
for instance, and enabling experiences that
wouldn’t otherwise be possible because we’ve
got that connection and the Ford Focus energy
is a great example of that, of you know one
of the areas around electric vehicles is obviously
you know, charging is a much different context
than you know them being able to stop by the
gasoline station.
So there’s increased sensitivity for obvious
reasons around you know, what the state of
charge, you know how long is it going to take
me to get to a particular destination, is
my battery charge capacity enough for me to
get to that destination.
And so with our mobile app for instance we
empower customers to understand, what is the
state of charge of the battery and then translate
that into a meaningful way for them to understand
it.
So if they’ve got a particular route or
destination, they can use the smart phone
app to understand here’s where I’d like
to go, and then we give them a very simple
indicator in terms of a red, yellow, or green
of what’s the likelihood of the battery
charge being able to take you to that destination
and then by the way know what are the charging
points that’s either along the route or
conveniently located that you can take advantage
of.
And so again, it’s about integrating ourselves
into how our consumers are already experiencing
life and living life and moving sort of that
automotive context more into a consumer experience,
digital experience and connected lifestyle
context.
So don, when the vehicle becomes a software
platform it enables you at Ford to have an
ongoing relationship that extends far beyond
you know just that functional drive time.
Absolutely, and I believe it was a Morgan
Stanley study that show a high level of what
they use today sort of loosely, but today
– or I should say in the resent passed roughly
90% of a vehicles value you know has been
in hardware components right. The power trains,
the suspension, the body, the interior and
roughly 10% of it was in software and control
modules.
And as we go forward we see that ratio shifting
quite dramatically such that you know, roughly
50% of the vehicles value will be in that
hardware and the other 50% is divided between
software and experiences and sort of out of
vehicle sort of content.
And a couple of things that really enable
us to do first, we are as you allude to able
to maintain sort of an ongoing connection
we have the benefit of you know what software
enables which is capability that gets better
over time.
And so you know, unlike a suspension system
that you know, you take your best inputs,
take customer inputs, you understand what’s
going on competitively, you understand you
know what are the requirements of this vehicle.
You’ve designed and built the best suspension
system that you can but once you commit to
it you’re done right. you done have you
know upgradable control arms, but we will
have upgradable software and that in a sense
empowers the consumer to have a vehicle that
you know potentially that two to three years
from now is as good as you know the vehicle
that someone buys new in that time frame.
It also enable us to benefit from you know
the data that is a result of those interactions
and leveraging that data, and first of all
it’s the customer’s data and we are stewards
of it on their behalf. That’s our position
for it here at Ford.
But leveraging that data to enhance that experience
and that relationship with the consumer to
provide more more and provide better and more
contextual experiences.
Again so that we become more and more part
of how customers are living their lives and
the vehicle becomes you know par tof a solution
to a multi-variant equation of you know customers
are using and again in terms of how they’re
perusing life and living life.
So you know, as you’re building this innovation
to bolster customer intimacy and use software
technology to create stronger connection between
the driver, passenger, and Ford. There’s
an awesome amount of responsibility in terms
of security and as someone who is also a technologist
it must be a tremendous of Fords part to encryption
technology to monitoring back end systems
to whatever you do to ensure the personal
information of Michael, Vala, and Don are
safe and secure and you’re using it only
to add value and to enhance the experience
of the driver. Can you talk a little bit about
that?
Sure you’re absolutely right Vala and the
way we look at it is this notion of connected
platform delivering compelling experiences
which result in you know during the relationships
with customers, none of that is possible unless
it’s built on a foundation of trust. We’ve
literally got a graphic here that illustrate
all of this literally on a foundation of trust,
and there’s two components to that trust
and again you’ve alluded to them.
You know first is privacy and second is security.
You know so as a customer or a user, what
do I want ford or other parties to know about
me and to know about the vehicle. You know
that’s the privacy element and the security
element, what is Ford doing to protect me
and my data from hacking and from threats.
So on the privacy side I’ve talk you know
about our philosophy of being stewards of
the customers data. It’s the customers data
and we’re stewards on their behalf, and
we believe that giving customers control over
how that data is used is absolutely the right
thing to do and we believe that to the extent
that we are providing value commits with that
permission that we’ve got a balance there,
and we need to always think about what is
going to be valuable for the customer, not
you know what can we do with this data.
On the security side, it’s understanding
that you know practically as we become more
connected in terms of the vehicle and in terms
of you know the cellular networks and in-vehicle
networks and mobile apps that you know the
threat surface grows exponentially.
And so we need to be cognizant of that. we
need to have – not just best practice but
leading practice in terms of things like encryption,
in terms of things like air-gap, in terms
of things like signature identification and
authentication – all of those things. And
we need to learn and grow quite rapidly in
terms of capability and expertize in that
area, and we need to benefit from what’s
happening around us. And so whether it’s
partnering with other automotive OEM’s as
was recently announced a couple of days ago
in terms of a consortium that’s coming together
to making sure that we’re approaching that
in the right way to aligning ourselves with
other entities outside of the automotive industry.
along those same lines in terms of security.
And then doing what a lot of other companies
are doing which is you know, doing our own
intrusion testing and leveraging outside parties
to help us with that. To help us see things
that we don’t see and then address those
things before they become critical. And it’s
a you know it’s a never ending journey,
and it’s one of certainly prevention but
proactive in quick response in case something
does happen.
But we think that it’s really critical in
order to to this and to truly realize that
again all the benefits of the connective world
that we see from the standpoint of both consumers
as well as ourselves as an enterprise and
then the greater good in terms of society.
Don, as you’re talking it’s very clear
that the implications of this for the industry
and for Ford are such that the skills, the
competencies, the processes inside Ford, the
relationships with dealers, all of this will
eventually be disrupted. And so I wonder,
how does a company like Ford that has been
around for such a long time, how does Ford
manage all of this during the period of transition.
I think disruption is actually a key word
for us and it’s a word that our CEO Mark
Fields uses constantly and it’s more than
just you know, cannibalized yourself before
you’re cannibalized. It’s really about
thinking beyond todays constructs and thinking
beyond the way we create value today for instance.
And understanding that if I go back to that
scenario of you know in the past it was we’ll
give you the vehicle in exchange for you know
money, and I’m really really grossly simplifying
that right.
That was in a sense a point solution for mobility,
right. the way you got around was you owned
or leased a vehicle and we in a sense were
in control of that entire transaction and
value exchange.
You know, what we’re recognizing and what
we are embracing and sort of not just recognizing
and hoping it goes away, but what we’re
recognizing and embracing is that mobility
solution is now no longer single point, it’s
multi-variant. And we need to recognize that
we don’t play the sole role in delivering
that solution. So we are going to need to
understand how is that solution changing and
in what ways can we plug into that and continue
to be part of that solution and recognizing
again we aren’t the sole provider of that.
So for instance, we’ve engaged in a series
of experiments. We call the mobility experiments
around the globe that look at you know, how
are people moving getting from place to place,
and in what role we as Ford play in facilitating
and actually embracing that change. And we
even look at it internally and we’re thinking
about how do we change or disrupt our internal
processes.
Again, if I go back to that model of the vehicle
of roughly 90% sort of hardware based in terms
of value, moving to more software based. You
know the way we design and develop our products
today, and again I’m going to grossly oversimplify
it for purposes of the conversation.
You know, we have program teams that start
on a vehicle program and work, you know three
or four years to develop it design it, get
it ready for production. Then it’s manufactured
and it’s sold to dealers. Then that program
team moves aback to the next program and start
on the next vehicle.
Well software is very different right. You
develop it and you constantly enhance it and
we’ve got to change our internal processes
to move from this you know, periodic program
model to more of an ongoing basis, ongoing
team development model. Needing to move to
agile types of concepts like you know, minimally
viable product right. We’re going to deliver
a capability and experience but we’re going
to recognize that it gets better over time.
Right. And so the things that we look at in
terms of quality and safety and what we need
to meet regulations. We’re not going to
change any of that because that’s fundamental
and king of key to how we run our business.
But at the same time, we need to graphed on
this software technology company mentality
that sort of disrupts or modifies or augments
those internal processes with agile to fast
prototype being learn fast, fail fast kinds
of model that make sense in that world.
Obviously, do it in a way that is contextually
the correct way. But when I say fail fast,
obviously we don’t want an air bag doesn’t
fail fast. But if we’re talking about a
consumer experience that we want to understand
and learn, we’ll try somethings out. We’ll
test it out, we’ll update it, We’ll see
what kind of feedback we get. And that’s
the other notion I think in terms of disrupting
our business.
And again I’ll go back to that we’re sort
of in control of that single point solution
and we’re now moving into this phase of
co-creation, co-creation with partners, and
co-creation with customers as well.
So are you as you talk about agile and value
of the car shifting to a 90/10 in favor of
hardware to 50/50 hardware – software. And
I feel like all of this connectivity is a
precursor and a requirement for self-driving
cars, you’re going to need that instrumentation
and real time, bidirectional precision communication,
built into hardware and software in automobiles.
So are your competitors, at the Googles and
the Apples of the world, and is this really
a requirement in order to get to perhaps the
next most and biggest disruptive innovation
in the automobile industry and that being
self-driving cars.
Yeah, there’s a lot there, and let me touch
on a few of those components. Are our competitors,
Apple and Google – yes and no. They’re
competitors and partners and they are competitors
in a couple of different senses right.
I mean, if we want to create this enduring
relationship with customers, there is only
a few brands because of mind share and just
you know minimizing complexity. There’s
only a few brands that will really truly be
able to do that and the customers will be
willing to sort of engage in that relationship
with.
So from the standpoint of that mind share
and that capacity for relationship building,
certainly we are competing with Google, Facebook,
with Apple, with Amazon potentially and so
that is a more theoretical sort of competitive
sort of dimensional. But none of the less
I think it’s something we have to concern
ourselves with, because that is the basis
on which we are going to be compared by customers.
It’s not just going to be you know Ford
versus Chevy versus you know, Volkswagen.
It’s going to be my Ford experience versus
my Apple experience, versus my Amazon experience.
And gosh when I’m on Amazon they anticipate
my needs and when I’m shopping things come
up and it just feels natural, and you know,
we’ve got to do that same thing inside of
Ford, right. It’s got to be natural, it’s
got to be seamless, it’s got to be simple.
But at the same time, those same companies
because they are part of delivering those
experiences, and because as I said before
that mobility solution becomes multi variant,
and will be working with some of those same
companies as partners, right in terms of delivering
that ultimate customer experience.
And then when you think about what is going
to be necessary for autonomies, certainly
connected vehicle is one of the enablers for
that in terms of the vehicle robustly understanding
its environment, being able to you know communicate
with other vehicles, being able to exchange
information. Being able to have you no real
time updates in terms of mapping, and being
able to again, contextualize the environment
what’s the weather like, and how is that
going to influence you know what the autonomous
drive system is doing.
And within Ford what we have done is because
we see you know, this interconnectedness and
inner dependency , we’ve grouped a number
of areas within Ford underneath this one umbrella
we call, smart mobility.
And so it is connectivity and connected vehicle.
It’s big data and data analytics. It’s
the mobility experiments that I referred to
before. It’s autonomous and where we are
headed there. And in all enabling these robust
customer experiences that go beyond simply,
you know I buy a vehicle and it takes care
of my day-to-day needs. A customers experience
that evolves into this enduring relationship.
And what we know is that we don’t have all
the answers. We don’t have everything figured
out. We are going to be again, working with
partners and working with customers as we
develop and find answers to sort of again,
solve that multi variant equation. But I love
the fact that we are thinking that way as
a company, and you know, we are organising
ourselves that way as a company. And you know,
when you think about it, it’s automotive
as you alluded to before, you know, it’s
over 110 years old as an industry.
And it’s been you know, a very sort of robust
industry in terms of we continue to be a growth
business, right. We continue to sell more
and more vehicles globally around the planet.
Now, we recognise at some point you know,
there’s a limit in terms of infrastructure,
in terms of space and everything else. And
so you know, mobility solutions are going
to need to change as a result of that, but
our ongoing viability and relevance as an
industry, at least from a Ford perspective
we need to change, as our consumers are changing,
and as the things around our consumers are
changing. We need to change as well and adapt,
and grow, and learn.
Again, from a Ford perspective I’m excited
to be at a place where we’re embracing that
as opposed to require LinkedIn fear.
Your project has backing at the highest level
of Ford, so give us a sense of the context
of where you fit into Ford as an organisation.
Sure, so actually probably the best way to
do that is to describe who my bosses are.
So I report to Raj Nair, who heads global
product development. I also report to Stephen
O’Dell, who heads marketing. And I report
to Marcy Klevorn, who heads information technology.
And they all directly report to Mark Fields,
the CEO. Mark and I have a monthly get-together,
where he understands what is the latest and
what’s going on, where do you need help.
The senior leadership team is actively involved
in both in determining and setting strategy,
as well as our executional plans against that
strategy. And our deliverables that are matching
those plans – that’s the other thing that
I really love about my job for instance is
that I’m interacting on a regular basis
with the CEO, with IT head, with the guy that
runs product development, with marketing.
And there’s an understanding and it’s
– I’d love to say that it’s peculiar
about the way Ford works.
I’ve always been exposed to one other large
organisation and you know, Ford in terms of
the working together component is really really
good at that. And really really good at understanding
that you know, – we need to view ourselves
and operate in a way that our customers are
viewing us.
And customers don’t view Ford marketing,
they don’t view Ford IT, they don’t view
product development. They just use Ford, right,
and so we need to work together in order to
deliver solutions that cut across those skittle
teams and functions. And in a sense, I’m
one of those living integrators, and sometimes
it’s a challenge to have three different
bosses. But I think it’s also a forcing
function that makes sure that you know what,
when we come up with something and when we
deliver something, is going to be coordinated.
It’s going to be comprehensive, and it’s
going to be something that is not necessarily
for the benefit for any particular skill team
or function, but for the benefit of our customers
and for the benefit of the enterprise.
So your title could be you know, director
of connected cars, services and Ford executive
– that’s awesome. I suspect that’s tremendous
amount of synergy and efficiency that you
bring just as the glue of these three critically
important lines of business. And I think it
was PWC that noted last year that Ford was
in the top 24 R&D spending in the world, so
clearly the thirst for hunger and innovation
at Ford is among the best in the world. What
fuels that, is it – which one of your three
bosses is really pushing the envelope in terms
of, let’s not just be a market taker, let’s
be a market maker.
Yeah, that’s a great phrase, market-making
and value creating as well. It really starts
at the top and you can actually look at Alan
Mulally, our past CEO and really having that
notion of working together. And you know Mark,
the current CEO is really kind of taken that
to the next level and injected this sense
of innovation into that working together piece.
And it’s really driven from the very very
top in terms of you know, first just allocating
the resources in this area.
So you know, research and development and
applying it in the right way and you know,
the example of these mobility experiments,
right. That’s something that you know those
have gone all the way up to Mark Fields in
terms of – you know not the specific detail
of every experiment, but the notion of, we’re
going to do these experiments, here is the
areas that they will entail, here’s what
we hope to learn.
And it’s really about keeping one foot sort
of firmly in the present, right. Because we
have got $100 billion plus business that we
need to run on behalf of our shareholders
and other stakeholders. We need to do that
in the most efficient and effective way as
possible. So is keeping one foot in the present
and doing that really really well, while also
having a foot in the future, and a future
that we are trying to create as opposed to
a future that will inherit.
So it’s very hard to talk about this topic
without thinking about Tesla. And I hope that’s
not rude of me to bring up Tesla but they
are dedicated to this, whereas Ford is obviously
a much larger and older company which has
its pluses and minuses. So can you maybe talk
a little bit about your view of Tesla and
the industry as a whole?
Sure I think Tesla is I’ll use the word
microcosm and I don’t mean that in a diminishing
sense. But is a microcosm for where the industry
is headed and how the industry needs to think.
You know, the benefit that Tesla has had is
that they were able to start with literally
a clean sheet of paper.
And sort of take the best in terms of thinking
like a software company, right. Because you
know that was their origin and so guess what,
their vehicles are updatable over the air.
They do have a platform and architecture that
is software-based and software capable.
You know, and they are thinking about you
know mobility models, and so not that I’m
envious of Tesla but I admire what they have
done and you know, we can learn from some
of the things that they’re doing in the
benefit that we will have and if we do it
correctly and if I do my job correctly, I
think we can absolutely get there.
Being able to bring a scale and a sense of
integration, a sense of a broad existing customer
and dealer network that we can – in the
case of the dealer network we can take advantage
of as a strength and have them change, and
have them evolve with us as we go on this
journey.
And that is one of the other things that you
know I am really excited about. Is you know
again, we aren’t looking at the future and
living in fear of it and hoping it doesn’t
kind of you know impose on the way we do business
today. We are thinking about the future, and
thinking about how do we shape the future.
How do we take advantage of the assets that
we have.
How do we understand the limitations that
we have and how those limitations need to
change, and how we do we do this journey together.
So yeah, Tesla again is a company that is
admirable and you know a company that we can
learn from in that sense. But also that’s
something that reinforces our thinking and
where we are going to be going and understanding
how can we even take that to the next level
as well.
It’s amazing and what a journey, and I bet
you love your job and I can just sense it
in the way that you answer the questions with
such passion and you can feel it through the
screen. But in terms of when you talk about
dealer network and you know a large company
like Ford and this digital transformation
that includes so many different stakeholders
because it’s such a large ecosystem. Talk
to us a little bit about the Ford culture,
because Mike or experience in working in start-ups
companies and public companies regardless,
success factor, you know culture, people,
process, and perhaps lastly technology. Talk
to us a little bit about the Ford culture,
because you need a great culture to be able
to execute to this awesome vision – which
is a great vision and that’s where we need
to be as companies.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. What I like
most about the Fort culture is first it’s
very connected to my own internal value system.
My own personal viewpoint, and I’m happy
that that passion has come across because
it’s genuine and it’s real. You know,
if you are in a place where the values of
the company that you’re working for are
aligned with you all internal personal values,
then that is synergistic. They feed on themselves
and you enjoy what you’re doing, and you
enjoy the people that you are doing it with.
And that is true here at Ford and it really
I guess in a sense it starts with the fact
that it’s Ford.
It’s the Ford name. It’s the Ford family,
it’s going all the way back to its origins
as a starter, right. And so even that, and
it sounds a bit hokey but even that notion
of its Ford and your part of that family and
your part of that original notion of opening
highways for all mankind.
And there really is something to that, and
whether it is internal with Ford, or whether
it is with our dealer partners, or whether
it is with our UAW partners, there is this
notion that we are part of this family.
And you know within any organisation, anytime
you get – and if you get more than two people
together right, there is conflict, but the
challenge is not in the conflict. It’s in
how you resolve that conflict. And you know,
I would be silly to say you know it’s all
roses and rainbows every day here at Ford
but I’ll tell you when we do have conflict
we resolve it in a healthy way. We resolve
it in a way that puts the customer first,
and you know, are we expert at every single
facet of that? No, but we are constantly challenging
ourselves and pushing our self in that I mentioned
to really again kind of help fulfil Henry
Ford’s original vision of opening the highways
for all mankind.
And again to repeat a theme that we talked
about earlier in the hangout, you know that
originally opening highways for all mankind
was a single point transportation solution
that we controlled every aspect of. But increasingly,
opening highways and opening experiences for
all mankind is going to be you know a multipart
solution, and from a Ford perspective we just
want to play our part.
Don, we are just about out of time and we
have just a few more minutes left, so and
we have about two hours of conversation that
we want to continue with you. So in that spirit
let’s do a lightning round of questions.
We’ll ask you some questions and maybe give
us some very short answers to so we can compress
two hours into the next five minutes.
So you have a Palo Alto R&D Center, why? Why
does Ford have a Palo Alto R&D Center?
A couple of quick reasons, the culture of
innovation in Silicon Valley and just wanting
to be present there, wanting to be part of
that and understand you know the ideas and
just be part of that community, because we
think it’s critically important.
Do you work with start-ups and if you do,
what advice do you have to start-up founders
who would like to approach Ford with their
innovation.
We have absolutely worked with start-ups,
and one of the ways that we do that is through
some think what we call Aplink, which is a
kind of internal structured API protocol inside
our vehicles to allow mobile applications,
to take advantage of our voice controls, our
vehicle controls for instance. And we’ve
got a developers site that is open to everyone
from start-ups to even government entities.
The only thing that I would say that if you’ve
got great ideas, bring them. We love listening
to them. We love hearing them. And we want
to be a company that again, I go back to our
Palo Alto office, we want to be a company
that’s part of the community and part of
again that co-creation, because that’s really
when great things happen. I think when there
is a synergy between partners create something
that neither on their own can do. So from
a start-up perspective leveraging things like
Aplink, and even also if it is not application
based but if it is technology-based, or if
it is software based you know there is a way
to connect to Ford either through our Paulo
Alto office or here in Dearborn and you know
listening for ideas and being part of the
experiments that we are undertaking.
Again, we want to think like a software company
and the more we interact with software companies
I think the better we are all going to be.
Another question relating to start-ups and
innovation. Do you think, obviously what you
are describing is highly innovative disruptions,
adaptations, and evolutions cars, software,
hardware as a platform. Do you think consciously,
deliberately about start-ups as extending
Ford corporate innovation efforts, do you
think about that explicitly?
I do, but I would say it’s more implicit
than explicit to be candid. But what we have
done, and again one of the reasons that we
are dramatically growing our presence in Silicon
Valley is to understand what are the things
that we need to think about and in terms of
maybe being that more explicit part of how
we do our business, and how we think about
the future.
And one final question from me and then maybe
Vala one final one, we have about two minutes.
What are the appropriate measurements for
corporate innovation efforts?
That’s a good question.
That’s not a lightning round question
I’d say the ultimate measure is satisfied
customers. Internally, there are a number
of things that we are doing in terms of you
know, idea generation, IP or patent applications,
the extent to which employees in those innovation
in areas feel excited and feel happy about
what they are doing. So engagement surveys
and it starts with understanding how the employees
are feeling, and then goes to measuring some
of the hard tangibles in terms of IP generation
and what’s happening there.
But ultimately hopefully, it will resolve
and represent itself in satisfied customers.
Vala do you want to take the last word.
My last word is Don, this was the fastest
45 minutes of my week, so thank you so much
for dropping so much science on us. It’s
going to make it that much easier for Michael
and are to write up a summary of this great
afternoon session. Thank you so much.
You have been listening to episode 109 of
CXO-Talk, and we’ve been discussing digital
transformation in the automotive industry
with Don Butler, who is the executive director
for connected vehicles and services at Ford.
Don, as Vala said thank you so much for taking
the time. We really appreciate it.
Hey, it’s been a fun conversation. Thank
you guys.
And as always Vala, I hope you have a great
week ahead of you.
You as well, thank you so much.
Thank you Vala, and I hope everybody who is
watching comes back and joins us again next
time. Bye, bye.

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