Going Android: Ford and Google Enter Six-year Data Partnership

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

On Monday, Ford and Google jointly announced a strategic, six-year partnership to accelerate the automaker’s connected vehicle and data service programs. Framed as part of Ford’s natural evolution into an information focused mobility firm, the release was loaded with corporate buzz phrases that we had to clean up. But the gist is that Ford would like to leverage Google Cloud for its products, meaning all future Ford models will be running Android operating systems starting in 2023.

This clears a pathway for improved integration from Google Assistant, Maps, Play, or any third-party applications catering to the incredibly popular OS. Unfortunately, it also highlights how gaga automakers are getting about data for the umpteenth time.

For better or worse, automobiles will soon be open to all the perks and security headaches of a laptop or cellphone. Automakers have seen how much money and influence companies have been able to hoover up just by collecting and hoarding user data and are keen to get in on the action. While the information offers an incalculably large benefit to marketing teams and engineers, these changes are often conducted under the veil of supporting autonomous/electric vehicle development or simply as a way to “modernize the company.”

Unfortunately, modernization has become a suboptimal excuse for decisions that would register to some as a clear invasion of privacy. But we cannot say with any certainty that the deal penned with Google crosses any new lines. Ford explained the duo would be establishing a collaborative group, called Team Upshift, that’s designed to speed up its transition into becoming something other than an automaker — which is, ironically, what most other auto brands are doing right now. For example, BMW entered into an extremely similar arrangement with Amazon at the end of 2020.

From Ford:

To drive ongoing innovation, Ford and Google are establishing a new collaborative group, Team Upshift. Leveraging the talent and assets of both companies, Team Upshift will push the boundaries of Ford’s transformation, unlock personalized consumer experiences, and drive disruptive, data-driven opportunities. This may include projects ranging from developing new retail experiences when buying a vehicle, creating new ownership offers based on data, and more.

“As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernize our business,” said Jim Farley, President and CEO of Ford.

While Ford predictably discussed how the partnership would improve the artificial intelligence required for self-driving and upgrade future multimedia systems, the immediate get is access to Google’s analytics and data management services. That’s also likely to be the more lucrative aspect of the partnership as well. Blue Oval noted that the tech giant should help it “fast track the implementation of data-driven business models.” This could manifest as an early reminder that your car is due for its regularly scheduled maintenance or be utilized to feed you targeted advertisements synced between your vehicle and phone based on frequently visited locations. It all depends on what turns out to be the most profitable and what corporations think they can get away with.

But we also have to admit that it is likely to make Ford products more desirable going forward. Unless anti-trust laws finally catch up with Google or consumers collectively reject data-based services, people will probably remain married to its admittedly well-designed products. That means Ford’s future interface will probably be familiar to many and pair well with their preferred devices and software, giving it an edge in the showroom — regardless of whether it’s physical or virtual.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
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