Ford’s Latest Push Into Connected Cars Begins With Blackberry Talent

Ford SYNC 3
With SYNC 3, AppLink now automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora and Glympse, and displays their unique graphics and branding.
Steve Petrovich

Ford Motor Co. is hiring 400 engineers and investing $375 million to expand its research and development efforts in Canada as well as create a new center focused on connectivity in vehicles and all the services and features that technology can support including, advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous vehicles.

The new hires will more than double the size of Ford’s mobile connectivity engineering team as the automaker races to expand services enabled by wireless internet in cars.

The 400 hardware and software engineers come from Blackberry’s mobile communications group. Blackberry, which is changing its business to focus on software, says no engineers from its Blackberry QNX division were part of the transfer. QNX is the operating system behind Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment and connectivity platform.

“The BlackBerry QNX engineers continue to develop core technology for the automotive industry,” a Blackberry spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “This transfer allows Ford to double its connectivity engineering workforce and accelerate its efforts to build in-house solutions. As for the employees transferred, they have the opportunity to put their expertise to work for a leader in the automotive sector. This is a win-win for both companies as well as employees.”

The $375 million in new R&D investment will be used to create the Ottawa Research and Engineering Center as well as further research at other Ford facilities in Canada to improve fuel efficiency and sustainability. For instance, some funds will go towards Ford’s research on capturing industrial emissions and converting them to fuel at the Fumes-to-Fuel Research Development Center in the Oakville Assembly Complex. The investment will also support Researchers at Ford’s Windsor Powertrain Engineering Research and Development Center who are working advancing powertrain technologies, alternative fuels, and making vehicles lighter to boost fuel efficiency.

The new Ottawa Research and Engineering Center will focus on research and development across infotainment, in-vehicle modems, gateway modules, driver-assist features and autonomous vehicles. While most of the team will be at the new R&D center, some engineers will work out of other facilities in Waterloo and Oakville, Ontario, as well as Cary, North Carolina and Sunrise, Fla., according to Ford.

This will be Ford’s first center focused on connectivity research and advanced technology in Canada.

“Connectivity is the critical component to the future of mobility,” Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, global product development and chief technical officer said in a statement. “Whether it’s providing information to help reduce congestion in cities, allowing vehicles and infrastructure to communicate to keep us safer on the road or simply knowing all your personal settings when you enter a self-driving vehicle, connectivity is the key. By more than doubling our connectivity talent and establishing a research centre, we can innovate faster and deliver more software and services to exceed our customer’s expectations.”

Ford has announced C$1.2 billion in Canadian investments ($900 million) over the past six months, including C$700 million ($526 million) into factories there.

Some of that capital is being used update Ford’s Windsor operations, which include the Windsor Engine Plant and the Essex Engine Plant, and upgrade its Oakville Assembly Complex to support the production of the crossover vehicle the Ford Edge, which is exported from Canada to more than 100 countries.

Ontario and Canada are each providing Ford Canada with a conditional grant of up to $102.4 million.

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