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Ford: We are more than one motor company

By Ding Yu Shan
Published: Oct 11,2013

On computex this year, the only motor company Ford exhibited the new released Ford Kuga provided for Ford SYNC, MyFord Touch and other smart car systems. Furthermore, other hi-tech driving assistant systems as Hand-free trunk sensor, Active Park Assist system, Lane Departure Warning system and Active City Stop system.

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Ford is more than a car manufacturer

When Ford joint consumer electronic shows as CES and Computex, they were questioned from their car manufacturer orientation. Ford then respond with highly innovated products and all consumers experienced the auto pilot assisted systems raised no further question about Ford joining shows mentioned above.

Dr. Pim van der Jagt, director of Ford European research center, chief technical supervisor for global vehicle power, driving assist and active safety system announced “Ford is one motor company but also a technology corporation. We achieve something different”.

He mentioned that the research Ford performed now is not limited in motor territory, through the combination of different approaches like motor and health care to more applications. “We are not trying to manufacture new medical products but to combine current medical products with motors and create more possibilities”.

Figure one
Figure one

Therefore, as a car manufacturer, Ford owns a lot of exclusive titles in technology areas. Except for the only car manufacturer joint Computex, Ford is the also only car manufacturer selected as the world’s best 50 research invention companies (rated as 27th) in Fast Company magazine. Just as mentioned in Ford’s advertising slogan, “Live a colorful life”, Ford is creating more and more brilliant achievements in different areas.

There are reasons leading Ford to own above exclusive titles for Ford focus on the connection between human and cars instead of the function or figure of cars only. Dr. Pim mentioned, “Ford is not aiming on sell cars, but trying to picture what human activities will be with cars in 20 or even 30 years”.

Breaking all rules instead of following existing system

Engineers own the subtle, boring, stiff, follow the textbook stereotypes, especially in German team. However, Pim’s team is different from what we thought. The research team in Aachen research center work with passion and creativity in a very flexible environment.

As the director of research center, Pim is described as a “Taciturn” staff, a typical engineer type of person with a little bit seriousness in his organized speeches. But it takes the personality to challenge textbook and the insight to foresee what is coming to be in the core team of Ford research center, it takes even more to be the leader.

Pim mentioned, “Trying is never wrong in Ford’s corporate culture”

In the culture of Taiwan electronic industries, to follow traditional model is a safe and resource saving solution. In Ford, the first question raised from management team will be: “Why we have to follow the textbook? Is there no other solutions?”

Maybe Ford’s culture built up does bring certain risk. It also proves that the culture brings Ford from shining in the car industry to even brighter in technology field. It is the same culture attracts Pim to Ford.

As a Dutchman, Pim finished his learning in German. After graduation, Pim worked in Volvo and Goodyear tires. He concentrated on interactions between tire and motor while moving through computer simulation and test facilities.

Afterwards, although there are lots of motor brand company all over European, Pim chose Ford from United States because “Ford is extremely internationalized!” There are top notch talents from 17 different nations and areas gathered together in Pim’s department.

Mobile revolution is happening here.

Create More Creativity!

After Pim joint research center in 1996, the design team members grew from 50 to 280 people working on the future of Ford. Pim had spent a lot of effort on how future people transfer for three years, he said jokingly “We are talking about driving cars all the time, but maybe people will be driving something else in 20 years”.

Figure II
Figure II

Pim’s research includes vehicle body material and structure to try alternative manufacturing process or steel material for lighter weight to fuel economy. Moreover, his research focus on increasing engine performance. Besides, Pim’s team put a lot of resource on communication device and transportation integration. Another interesting subject will be assisting pilot or even auto pilot. Pim picture the possibilities on future moving and transportation, it is his job to “Just try to create more creativity”.

It is hard to image that what kind of changes might occur in 20 to 30 years. Pim still predict on current traces that all kinds of vehicles including trains, MRT, car, motorcycle or bicycle will be merged into certain level and when that time comes, as long as one single item broken, the whole transportation system will be damaged. “We do not know that the effects will be, but it is pretty important to set up the interaction and communication between vehicles”.

From assist pilot to auto pilot

Besides, auto pilot will be one of the important agendas in the future. Pim divided auto pilot into two directions, one is auto pilot without manual operation, and the other is assist pilot. “Auto pilot is not some high tech happening during one nap, all necessary techniques need to merge into car systems step by step”.

Pim explains that actually auto pilot technology is acquired already in lots of motor companies but it is still long way to go for completed auto pilot. “It is extremely hard to synchronize pilot system with human sensory and to distinguish every little difference on the road”.

Although auto pilot is not applicable in short term, we already observed related functions on assist pilot. For example, the active cruise control system on Kuga can support drivers to set up 60 Km/hr as per hour speed, and keep the set up distance between vehicles in the front. Pim also mentions about another assist pilot function Ford works on- Traffic Jam Assist, which assist drivers in traffic jam and launch auto pilot via detecting front vehicles.

“Step by step, if we increase all the functions we have been working on, in the end drivers barely did nothing”, Pim address that although assist pilot and auto pilot goes two directions, in the future they will eventually meet.

“Observe from different angles is the only way to keep creative”.

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