With Ford’s Smart Mobility plan in full swing, and the recent announcement of a new subsidiary to manage the project, it could perhaps be said that for all intents and purposes, Ford Motor Company has started on a path to transition from automaker to tech company.
Of course, rumor has it that tech giant Apple has embarked upon exactly the opposite journey with the alleged “Titan” self-driving car project. This means that Ford’s future list of rivals might not only include the standard fare from the US, Japan, and Europe, but also the company which brought us the iPod and iPhone.
Right now, Ford’s assumption is that Apple is indeed working on a self-driving car, says company CEO Mark Fields. He told the BBC in an interview: “[Apple’s Project: Titan] provides us with the right motivation to make sure we stay very focused not only on the product but overall on the experience that the customer has interacting with the product and the services that we have.” This includes the new FordPass mobility app, along with Ford’s own self-driving car program and its myriad other future plans to provide mobility to the masses.
“There are a lot of traditional competitors that we have in our business who we know and we respect,” Fields continued. “There are a lot of new non-traditional competitors who are looking at the automotive space and looking at that addressable market and saying ‘gee can we get a piece of that.'” Beside Apple, this might also include Google – another behemoth tech company thought to be developing an autonomous vehicle in secret.
Despite this, Mark Fields isn’t worried about the sudden appearance of new rivals. He told the BBC: “We are viewing that as an opportunity, not as a threat, and there will be some things [we can do] on our own to be able to satisfy those customer needs that technology enables.” He added: “At other times, we will partner with others, and that’s the reason we set up a big research and innovation centre in Palo Alto: because we want to collaborate with and participate in that environment.”
That said, the Ford CEO reiterated that the automaker is not interested in becoming a mere “contract manufacturer” for Google, Apple, or any other entity.