Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Opening Up the Automobile: Venkatesh Prasad: As the Senior Technical Leader for Vehicle Design and Infotronics, Venkatesh Prasad Has Led the Creation of an Open-Source Platform to Blend the Digital and Automotive Worlds

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Opening Up the Automobile: Venkatesh Prasad: As the Senior Technical Leader for Vehicle Design and Infotronics, Venkatesh Prasad Has Led the Creation of an Open-Source Platform to Blend the Digital and Automotive Worlds

Article excerpt

I came to Ford by chance, as often happens. I was in the tech world, focused on computer vision, when I got a call from Ford to see if I might be interested in bringing intelligence to vehicles. They asked whether I knew anything about cars; the short answer, which was no, turned out to be the right answer. I came in as an outsider. In the scientific world, this is often known as being bilingual; being bilingual helps because problems in one domain might have solutions already discovered in another domain.

My first reaction to the change was that the clock speeds were strikingly different. Everything in Silicon Valley moves in hours and days and weeks; at Ford, it seems like months and years. But I was humbled by the complexity of the challenge of building vehicles that operate around the globe and stay functional for 10 to 15 years. It took some adjustment on my part, but ultimately, I had the opportunity to blend the two worlds.

An example of the merger of these worlds is Sync, a technological capability that allows you to integrate your consumer electronics devices (like your smartphone) with your car and control them in a safe way to provide an "eyes on the road, hands on the wheel" experience. But there is a lot of latitude in terms of how we execute and how we make the services available, both the services that come through content you bring in and services that come through content that is beamed in.

To prove the enabling technologies and then design and launch Sync, it took many skill teams and hard work with our traditional suppliers and our new high-tech ones. We realized that to keep the Sync platform fresh, we had to have open programming interfaces, as doing so would enhance the value of the platform to developers and the value of the product itself--both the car and the ownership experience.

We realized that there was an almost limitless set of opportunities for developers to explore and add value to the Sync platform, but there was also an opportunity to reach out even further, beyond professional developers. …

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