Car maker opens research center in Tel Aviv as ‘lifeblood of future Ford’
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Car maker opens research center in Tel Aviv as ‘lifeblood of future Ford’

‘I’m going to be back very frequently,’ declares chairman Bill Ford at launch event for facility, which will scout for tech partners and host a vehicle lab

Bill Ford speaking at the opening of the Ford Research Center in Tel Aviv; June 12, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)
Bill Ford speaking at the opening of the Ford Research Center in Tel Aviv; June 12, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Ford Motor Company on Wednesday launched a research center in Tel Aviv to help the US car maker stay abreast of cutting-edge automotive technologies.

The Ford Research Center Israel will focus on identifying technology partners for the firm in the areas of connectivity, sensors, in-vehicle monitoring, and cybersecurity, and will serve as a research hub, working with Ford’s global teams.

The new center will join other global research hubs set up by the firm in Aachen, Germany; Nanjing, China; and Dearborn, Michigan, in the US.

The facility, opened by the company’s executive chairman Bill Ford, will be an integral part of the US car maker’s vision of designing smart vehicles. The center will include a vehicle lab to support proof of concept efforts and AI work.

Ford opens its new research center in Tel Aviv, June 12, 2019 (Shoshanna Solomon/Times of Israel)

Ford has been working with local companies and partners in Israel’s tech community for many years. In 2017, the US firm acquired Israel’s SAIPS AC Ltd., a developer of computer vision and machine learning algorithms, in a foray into the autonomous vehicle field.

Udy Danino, the CEO and founder of SAIPS will be the technical director of the new center, which will work closely with SAIPS.

“I’m going to be back — and I’m going to be back very frequently — because this really becomes the lifeblood of what Ford Motor will become in the future,” said Ford, on his first visit to Israel, at the opening. “The ecosystem I’ve seen here is just incredible.”

He added that the center will help local startups get access to the firm more easily, in order to set up long-term partnerships.

Bill Ford, the executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, at the EcoMotion conference in Tel Aviv, June 11, 2019 (Asaf Kliger)

The opening of the Ford center comes on the heels of the open innovation lab set up by Renault and Nissan in Israel, also this week, to tap into technologies sprouting in the so-called Startup Nation. Israel, which traditionally had no car manufacturing activities to speak of, has become an unlikely leader in technologies that look set to transform vehicles as we know them, with tech giants like Google and Intel, and car manufacturers including Honda, GM, BMW and Volkswagen, all scouting and investing in Israeli tech in this field.

“Expanding Ford’s presence in Israel with the new research center will allow us to engage with the best technology and leading companies a lot faster, and further support Ford’s goals of bringing together our vehicle and technology expertise to create new solutions to meet the mobility challenges of today and tomorrow,” said Danino.

David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel, said that the US-Israeli relationship is “getting stronger every day, and today is one of these days.”

Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Ford said that in the face of the “revolution” that is rocking the automobile industry, car makers need to team up with startups to stay ahead of the game.

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