Bill Ford Chimes in on the Future of Auto Tech
The duel between Silicon Valley and Detroit has been going strong for much of the past decade. As technology has advanced, California companies have told automakers that they're the ones to pave the path to the future. Tech's view of automotive was that they were slow, behind-the-times, and could not keep up with the massive think-tanks out west. However, events of the past few years have shifted the conversation in a direction favorable to auto-makers.
The change was slow to develop but culminated in the realization of one simple truth, that making a car is much more difficult than tech had imagined. Companies such as Google, Apple, and the like have invested billions of dollars into self-driving car efforts and other similar technologies. These programs have developed at a snail's pace because, simply put, all the intelligence in the world can't overcome over 100 years of experience.
Bill Ford, great-grandson of Henry Ford has a lot to say about this development. “The old conversation I used to have was, ‘You guys are going to end up being the handset, you’re going to be low-margin assemblers of other people’s cool technology,’” Ford said. “We don’t want to be the handset. And we won’t be.” He went on to say “there was this presumption that we were too dumb to get it; the conversation has really shifted.”
The fact of the matter is that the automotive industry is extremely complex. The supply chain management alone is staggering, with companies like Ford having to manage independent suppliers of roughly 30,000 parts which go into their vehicles. This complexity is a lesson IT companies had to learn the hard way.
Bucking the imaginary precept that technology can only be developed by Silicon Valley, auto makers have pressed forward in designing and testing their own driverless systems. Eventually one side or the other will come to market with a safe and working prototype. However we will most likely see that they need to come together to develop a system the public will be willing to accept as the next evolution of driving.