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Former Ford CEO Mulally joins Google’s board

One of Google's self-driving cars.One of Google's self-driving cars.
One of Google's self-driving cars.Courtesy: Google

Google is proving it’s serious about its foray into self-driving cars by bringing aboard a man who, until recently, was one of the auto industry’s highest-ranking executives.

The search giant said Tuesday that former Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally is joining the company’s board. Mulally, who resigned from Ford’s head last month after spending nearly eight years in that role, joins Google (GOOG) several years into its experiments with self-driving “smart cars.”

Fortune reported in May about Google’s plans to design and build a fleet of driver-less cars, which won’t have common auto features like steering wheels or gas peddles. The company’s announcement included a demo video showing passengers riding in prototype self-driving cars, which have room for two people and a top speed of about 25 mph. Google’s efforts even received a boost earlier this year when California’s Department of Motor Vehicles paved the way for testing driverless cars on public roads.

Adding the former Ford (F) executive is the latest move by Google to lend its smart car program some street cred in the auto industry. Two years ago, the tech company hired Ron Medford, then the deputy director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as the director of safety for its self-driving car project.

Google is coy about whether it plans to compete with Detroit by making cars in the future or merely sell car makers its driverless technology. Whatever the case, it would at least be a few years off.

Mulally’s tenure as Ford’s chief executive saw him steer the company through its rebound from the auto market’s collapse during the fiscal crisis – a rebound that left Ford as the only Big Three automaker not to need a government bailout. Mulally served as an Executive Vice President at Boeing Company before joining Ford in 2006.

“Alan brings a wealth of proven business and technology leadership experience,” Google CEO Larry Page said in a statement.

Mulally added in his own statement that he is “honored to serve on the board of a global iconic company that is dedicated to enhancing our lives.”

Mulally’s arrival also gives Google close ties to one of Detroit’s biggest automakers, as the former Ford CEO told Bloomberg last month that he didn’t plan to stray far from his former employer and he even said he would serve as an adviser to his successor, Mark Fields.