Google and Ford have signed a deal under which the Android operating system will be installed in most of the US carmaker’s vehicles in the latest sign of technology companies’ interest in the automotive sector.
Ford will start installing Android in all its cars outside China from 2023 for at least six years. Google, owned by the Alphabet holding company, will also work with the carmaker on projects including modernising its manufacturing processes and developing new ways of buying cars.
The agreement marks the latest foray by America’s big tech companies into the automotive world. Apple, Alphabet’s major mobile phone operating system rival, last month sent a shiver through the automotive industry after the Korean carmaker Hyundai revealed that the two companies were in talks about a possible partnership.
Other carmakers have also inked deals with big tech companies. Ford’s biggest US rival, General Motors, is working with Microsoft on autonomous driving technology, while Google is working with Renault on improving its manufacturing abilities.
The deals come at a time when traditional carmakers are struggling under the financial burden of large investments in developing electric vehicles and autonomous driving, at the same time as coping from the loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Ford has been relatively slow in embracing electric car technology, although it has recently launched its first all-electric car, the Mustang Mach-E SUV.
Jim Farley, Ford’s chief executive, said the deal “establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernise our business”.
Computer operating systems are seen as a key battleground for the automotive industry in the coming years, with technology companies hoping to sell lucrative services to passengers. The market is expected to grow rapidly even before cars are capable of driving without human input.
Executives at the two companies declined to provide commercial details of the agreements, including whether the companies will share revenues from services sold within the car or how it would be funded.
While the Android operating system will be the preferred option, Ford said its cars would still offer the ability to link with Apple’s iPhones through its CarPlay technology, and it would still continue to offer Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.
However, Ford and Google will work together on in-car apps. Google will also use its data handling abilities to help improve Ford’s management of its supply chain, and to accelerate its development of new cars.
Google said no data generated by the cars would be shared with or sold to third parties.