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Ford CEO Mark Fields Gushes about Silicon Valley Innovation Center

Ford CEO Mark Fields

Ford Motor Company opened a 25, 000-square-foot innovation and mobility center in the backyard of Yahoo, Facebook and Google in an effort to speed up vehicle research and build ties with local startups and academic institutions, the Detroit News said.

Ford has had a presence in Silicon Valley — a small office that housed about eight workers — since 2012. But President and CEO Mark Fields said the automaker wanted to become a major player in the region and take advantage of nearby university partners and app developers, the report said.

“What I’m so struck by, the valley here is a marketplace of ideas, ” Fields said, according to the News. “When you’re shopping for a house, it’s all about location, location, location. Here, it’s about being in the right neighborhood because of all the collection of companies. Our folks going to the coffee shops will run into folks from other companies and strike up conversation.

“There’s not a lot of secrets; folks are willing to share ideas, ” Fields added. “That’s why it’s so important to be here.”

The new center is home to 21 engineers, app developers and scientists, and Ford expects to employ 125 here by the end of the year. The employees are working on everything from driverless cars to apps that allow home thermostats to be set from vehicles, the report said.

Ford has similar research and innovation centers in Dearborn, Michigan and Aachen, Germany. The Dearborn facility focuses on advanced electronics, human-machine interface, materials science, big data and analytics, while the German center focuses on next-generation powertrain research, driver-assist technologies and active safety systems, the News said.

But the Palo Alto facility was necessary because of its location, Ford executives said, according to the report.

“It’s definitely different than the culture in Detroit….We really value this cultural diversity, ” said Raj Nair, Ford’s product chief, according to the News. “The collaborations will be a great opportunity for us. We’re going to have one of the largest presences of any automotive company out here.”

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